There was a barbecue on Post Road Saturday afternoon. The smell of grilled hamburgers greeted motorists as they waited for the signal at the entrance to T.F. Green Airport. But there was more on the fire than the summer favorites of hotdogs and hamburgers.
They were also, figuratively, roasting Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who is asking voters for a second term this November.
The occasion was the opening of Republican Barry Hinckley’s campaign headquarters at 2212 Post Road. This is Hinckley’s first run for public office, a quest he started months ago.
About 75 people, some waving red and white Hinckley signs at honking motorists, gathered in the headquarters parking lot to cheer the candidate. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung put in a brief appearance, but noticeably absent was any of Warwick’s elected Republicans; including Mayor Scott Avedisian, Ward 1 Councilman Steven Colantuono and Representative Joseph Trillo. Avedisian telephoned his regrets.
Hinckley’s message was that he has the experience to create jobs and keep young people in Rhode Island.
State GOP chairman Mark Zaccaria set the tone of the afternoon speeches, saying that the crew currently in office think government will do everything and what is needed are people who will start businesses and create jobs and opportunities.
“We need to send someone [to Washington] who knows what it is like to make payroll,” Republican National Committeewoman Carol Mumford said in introducing Hinckley.
Noting there are 171 days until the election, Hinckley said, “It’s go time right now.”
Hinckley called Election Day, “D-Day” for decision day, adding, “It’s our race this time.
“I’m here to tell you we’ll be firing Sheldon Whitehouse this fall. I know what goes into a payroll. Sheldon Whitehouse only knows what comes out of a paycheck.”
Hinckley followed in the steps of his family as a boat builder but, with passage of the federal luxury tax, he said he saw the business implode and the number of boats in production drop from several dozen to less than 10 a year. He went into the field of computer software, founding Bullhorn Software that earned the distinction of Boston Business Journal’s, “120 fastest Growing Private Companies” in New England for five consecutive years. The company now employs 150 people with more than $25 million in revenue annually.
Hinckley says young people in Rhode Island face two job crises: the crisis of getting their first job and the crisis of getting stuck in a low paying and unsatisfying job. To change the state’s environment, Hinckley would challenge state legislators who control the State House to do better and said, on a national level, he would work to eliminate laws and restraints, such as the 67,000-page tax code, that inhibits growth.
But it was conditions in Rhode Island and the state’s level of unemployment and its future where Hinckley focused his comments. He said state legislators “didn’t say a peep when the union tried to cram through binding arbitration in the middle of the night.”
He said over-regulation and taxes have driven businesses and people from the state.
“I would make business almost tax-free so they would move here,” he said.
Apart from the lack of jobs, Hinckley said, “The second biggest complaint I hear is that my kids are gone. We don’t produce enough jobs to keep our kids.
“What kind of a future can you [Rhode Island] have when kids are your biggest export?” he asked rhetorically.