The race for the 23rd Representative District, held by Robert Flaherty (D-Warwick) for the past 22 years, is heating up, as Republican John Falkowski has taken issue with Flaherty’s voting record.
According to rhodeislandvote.org, said Falkowski, Flaherty missed 1,749 votes out of 3,373, which is 51.9 percent of the votes from Jan. 1, 2008 to Feb. 7 of this year.
Falkowski also cited an article that ran in the Feb. 26 edition of the Providence Journal titled, “15 lawmakers missed seven days or more in 2011,” and wondered why Flaherty wasn’t on the list since he has missed 370 votes out of 826 from Jan. 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2011.
“He has the worst voting record as far as missed votes in the House and Senate, but when you look at the article in the Journal under the top 15 who were absent, his name doesn’t appear on the list,” Falkowski said. “The people of District 23 would look at that and assume, ‘My rep’s not on there, so that’s a good thing.’ How do you reconcile the fact that he missed 370 votes yet wasn’t on that list?”
But, as far as Flaherty is concerned, that isn’t the case. As for rhodeislandvote.org, he said it certainly counts votes but doesn’t distinguish what exactly was voted on.
“I don’t know where these numbers come from, unless he’s talking about motions to adjourn, resolutions and committee things,” Flaherty said. “There are six or seven committees that meet at the same time and you can’t be in all these different rooms at the same time. Anything that’s procedural or administrative – very few members vote on all of those. My record for votes on the floor is superlative. If you check my attendance, I hardly miss a day.”
The reality of the matter, said Falkowski, is that 370 out of 826 represents 44.8 percent of missed votes for 2011. Upon looking at 2010, Flaherty missed 366 of 718 votes, which is 51 percent.
Further, in 2009, he missed 422 of 848, which is 49.8 percent; in 2008, there were 981 votes and he missed 591, or 60.2 percent.
“He’s consistently been hovering around missing 50 percent of the votes,” Falkowski said. “There is no acceptable explanation. I could see if there was a situation where he had health problems or family issues, but it’s a pattern for him.”
In a letter to the editor that was published in the Warwick Beacon in March, Falkowski said Flaherty missed key votes, including revising legislative districts, amending the pension system, voter identification requirements and education funding amendments.
“These are all things that impact Rhode Islanders and he wasn’t there,” said Falkowski. “How can he be our representative if he’s missing over 52 percent of the vote during the last four years?”
Falkowski said he believes that because Flaherty has been unopposed for three of the four last election cycles, it has made him complacent. He wonders if Flaherty feels entitled to his position.
“I think it’s time for him to answer questions why he’s not doing the work of the people,” said Falkowski. “I’ve called his house and left him messages explaining that I want explanations, and also sent him an email, but haven’t heard back from him.”
Why won’t Flaherty respond to him? For Falkowski, the answer is simple.
“If he’s pressed on this issue, my suspicion is that he may not wish to seek re-election,” he said. “The more I talk to the voters of District 23 and the people of Rhode Island, they become more appalled about the situation.”
According to Falkowski, Flaherty often shows up to sessions, checks in as being in attendance and then leaves. Other sources, who wish to remain unnamed, said he often attends televised sessions and leaves right after the cameras.
“He’s done for the day,” Falkowski said. “It’s egregious that you can have a state rep consistently miss votes and not be held accountable for it. I think it’s time the people in Warwick and Rhode Island are given these facts; not just pieces of the story, but the whole story.”
Falkowski, who has been a resident in District 23 for more than 30 years, said he hopes to implement more reasonable taxes if elected.
In February, he held his campaign announcement at Elizabeth of Portofino’s at 897 Post Road. With 50 people in attendance, he raised $2,000.
Also, he will hold a child-friendly campaign fundraiser June 24 at Mishnock Barn at 200 Mishnock Road in West Greenwich from 2 to 7 p.m. The event will feature live entertainment, as Steve Smith & The Nakeds are set to perform.
“We’re hoping to get 700 to 1,000 people to attend,” he said. “It’s going to be a good one.”
Flaherty said he plans on running again. He will be seeking a 12th term.
“As soon as the session is over, I will start with my usual collecting of signatures, walking the district and direct mailings and signage,” he said. “I have my volunteers all ready. We’re good to go. Plus, I have a little money in the bank.”