In every election, there are fringe candidates who end up on the ballot and pick up a few votes from confused voters or those who, for whatever reason, think “none of the above” is their choice.
In the hotly contested 2014 Democratic primary for Governor on September 9, we have one of the fringe candidates in Todd Giroux. Though he is currently polling at 1.4%, the three principal contenders, Clay Pell, Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras, are all running within 6 points of each other.
Giroux’s numbers, whatever they turn out to be, will not get him elected, but could hurt the real candidates.
Before you throw your vote away on Todd Giroux, let’s take a closer look at him.
Todd Giroux emerged onto Rhode Island’s political stage two years ago when he challenged incumbent Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in the 2012 Primary. I will never forget Giroux’s speech to the State Convention. It was a 15-minute ramble during which Giroux shared his muddled vision of a future.Then came Giroux’s punchline. He told the Convention delegates – and I swear I am not making this up – he would be willing to drop his primary challenge to Senator Whitehouse in return for the state party giving him the House District 68 seat in the RI House of Representatives held at the time by Richard Morrison of Bristol.
I remember the stunned silence as Convention delegates tried to absorb this blatantly illegal deal offer. No one was willing to nominate Giroux. As it turns out, that was the high-water mark of Giroux’s 2012 campaign because he failed to collect enough signatures on his nomination papers to get on the ballot.
In 2014, he is running for Governor, perhaps because running for Governor takes less signatures than running for US Senate. Giroux did not repeat his 2012 mistake by speaking before the 2014 State Democratic Convention. However, he has been attending most of the debates and, to my surprise, some media outlets are actually treating him as a serious person.
They have even allowed him to repeat campaign centerpiece – his pledge to create a billion dollar fund to provide the capital to expand business in Rhode Island. He plans to take the billion dollars out of the state public workers’ pension funds.
This plan is illegal. You can’t just grab a billion dollars from anybody’s pension fund to finance some hare-brained scheme. Pension laws are crafted to prevent exactly that sort of abuse.
But I have seen no one in the media call Giroux out. Instead, they simply run his campaign pledge as if it was nothing out of the ordinary, when in fact, it is not only illegal but reckless.
Giroux has also been working to build an ultra-right base by showing up at gun rallies, opposing all gun restrictions, including those on automatic weapons.
He calls himself a “Liberty Democrat” and told California-based right-wing GoLocalProv pundit Arthur Schaper:
“I understand the constitution and property rights. There are many politicians negotiating away our freedoms, liberties, and playing politics with our economic conditions. I am working here to defend property rights.”
Giroux’s campaign positions also include a mishmash of populist talking points against Wall Street that almost convinced Schaper that Giroux wasn’t a right-wing “Liberty” type after all, but didn’t seem serious enough to dissuade Schaper from singing his praises in GoLocalProv.
Giroux gives his occupation as contractor, but he’s had his troubles with that, too. His company, LG Painting, was hit with a string of lawsuits, civil judgments and complaints with the RI Contractors Board. He ended up turning in his license in 1999. He went into Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation in 2010.
He has set up a new contracting business, Giroux General Contracting, and has already racked up four charges of negligent work and breach of contract at the RI Contractors’ Board.
Todd Giroux has the Constitutional right to run for public office if he chooses. There is always a market for a “none of the above” candidate. But Giroux is, in my opinion, a dangerous guy who says crazy things like looting public pensions to fund his schemes and asking the Democratic State Convention for a bribe.
The September 9 primary vote for Governor is likely to be very close and the outcome is vitally important for Rhode Island’s future. Don’t throw your vote away by voting for a clown candidate (and perhaps encouraging him to keep running in the future).
Personally, I think Clay Pell is far and away the best choice, but if you can’t decide whether to vote for him, as I wish you would, or for his opponents Angel Taveras or Gina Raimondo, it would be better if you voted for nobody for that position, rather than Todd Giroux.