Smithfield House Delegation Includes Experienced Hand, Rookie
Thomas Winfield, a 10-term incumbent, and first-term Representative-elect Gregory Costantino won their races on Tuesday night.
When the next Rhode Island House of Representatives session opens in January, Smithfield's delegation will represent the spectrum of experience, with one new member and a 10-term incumbent.
Thomas Winfield (D-Dist. 53) who secured an eleventh term 20 years and three days after his first election, said that he felt "very comfortable, as I always am" during an interview at Smithfield High School at about 5 pm on Tuesday.
"I wouldn't get in a race that I didn't think I could win," explained Winfield, who is president of Anderson-Winfield Funeral Homes and Anderson-Winfield Chauffeured Services.
Just a few hundred feet away at Anna McCabe School, Gregory Costantino was looking to drum up a few more votes in his second run for the House Dist. 44 seat previously held by Rep. Peter Petrarca.
Costantino defeated Petrarca in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary, and explained that he didn't think his work was done by unseating the incumbent.
"For me it wasn't — I'm the new guy, so once we finished the primary, we went out like we do have another race, and I take it seriously," Costantino said. "I'm not taking anything for granted."
Improving economy, fixing Assembly's image among priorities:
Both Winfield and Costantino said improving the state's economy — which currently has a 10.5 percent unemployment rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — would be a main priority.
"As always, it's about the economy and money," Winfield explained. "We have some educational issues that we have to take care of, and always, this job issue."
Winfield, who serves as chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development, also explained that the Assembly has a preception problem to overcome because of the recent bankruptcy of former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's 38 Studios.
Legislators signed off on a state loan guarantee program that could ultimately cost taxpayers up to $100 million after the state Economic Development Corporation dedicated $75 million to Schilling's failed video game company
"The 38 Studios [situation], that is going to be on everybody's mind — it was done to help create jobs, but failed miserably," Winfield said. "A lot of us in the General Assembly, we did it because we thought — and it was explained to us – that it would help a lot of different companies and not just one."
Following the company's collapse, Winfield added, "a lot of us in the GA are upset, and we're going to be looking at EDC and see how we can improve that — we're looking to have better oversight, because we're lacking in that."
Costantino also said he intend to work toward improving the state's business sector and the General Assembly's way of doing business.
"The 3-o'clock-in-the-morning legislation needs to go away," Costantino explained. "I think we need an ethics commission looking out for the General Assembly to make sure everybody's doing the right thing, and I'm very intersted in small business and economic development and jobs — we need to create jobs to put people back to work."
Another of the big issues on the horizon is municipal pension reform, which Costantino said he feels is can be addressed.
"I think you will see something [emerge from the Assembly]," Costantino explained. "In Providence, they were able to bring everybody to the table — so I think at some point, you're going to see everybody sitting down and trying to solve this problem that we're having."