Michael Underwood, who ran as an independent two years ago for the Distinct 21 seat, has tossed his hat into the ring as a Republican.
In the 2016 election Underwood placed third in a three-way contest behind Republican Michael Penta and Democrat Camille Vella-Wilkinson, who won the seat. Vella-Wilkinson beat incumbent Eileen Naughton in a primary to win the party’s nomination.
Underwood is the owner of M&L Home Improvement and Landscaping LLC and is a 23-year United States Coast Guard veteran who honorably retired in 2009. He is a graduate of Pilgrim High School and attended classes at Cape Cod Community College. During his career he earned two separate achievement medals and a Coast Guard medal for his heroic lifesaving effort during the Tug SCANDIA fire and grounding in 1996. His last three positions were at the command and leadership level.
“I am very concerned with what is occurring in our state,” said Underwood in a statement. “It’s like watching a slow-motion train wreck and it only continues to get worse. Between the UHIP debacle, tolls and a possible new PawSox stadium, it appears nobody is looking out for the taxpayers. We continue to hear about businesses leaving Rhode Island and are laying out large amounts of money to attract new ones. State spending also continues to be out of control and we can’t tax our way to prosperity.”
In an interview Underwood, who participated in the Second Amendment rally at the State House earlier this year, said he has issues with the Red Flag legislation supported by the governor in the wake of the Parkland shooting where 17 students and faculty were killed. He finds those definitions that give authority to take guns from individuals seen as mentality unfit or prone to violence as “too broad and over-reaching.” Underwood also raises questions about the term “assault rifle.” He said the term gets applied to the AR-15 and other “scary guns” when, in fact, there are other guns that hold the same number of rounds and fire the same bullets.
“I can turn a fork into an assault fork,” he said.
Underwood has lived in Rhode Island most of his life, except when his service in the Coast Guard brought him to other states. He has lived in his district concurrently since 2007. He is married to his wife Lisa, and has one child five years of age.
“It is very clear that our elected officials are not listening to the people, particularly State Representative Vella-Wilkinson,” said Underwood. “She has voted for every anti-business piece of legislation, including the Evergreen contracts. Our state is still ranked at or near the bottom in most key categories and her voting record is part of the problem.”
Underwood, who spent about $2,500 two years ago, hopes to raise twice that this time around. He said he has talked to Penta and doesn’t expect him to be running this year.
Underwood is active in the community, donating time and materials to A Wish Come True, the Aldrich Jr. High Teacher Memorial Wall and working with students in detention at Pilgrim High School. Most recently he organized a Texas hurricane relief effort, accepting enough donated supplies to fill a truck and trailer, which he personally drove to Texas to deliver.