Meet West Warwick’s “David”: Michael Pinga, Baker and presumptive Senator-Elect
This week, WPRO’s Dan Yorke interviewed Michael Pinga of West Warwick. Subject to the recount taking place tomorrow, Mr. Pinga won an upset victory over incumbent state Senator and Senate Finance Committee Chair Stephen Alves in Tuesday’s primary. Because Mr. Pinga will be the only candidate on the ballot for Senate District 9 come November, Mr. Pinga is also the presumptive Senator for that district. Senator Alves has called the recount a “long shot” but says he “owes it to his supporters”.
Below are some excerpts from Dan Yorke’s interview. Audio of the complete interview available here.
Yorke: Why did you run?
Pinga: I ran because I’m a small business man and I’m fed up with the high taxes. The representation we have for West Warwick … I feel that they’re up there, most of the representatives & senators, for themselves, self interest and personal gain. They haven’t done much for the town of West Warwick.
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[Yorke reads this Pinga ad, a compilation of headlines referencing many of Senator Alves’ escapades.]
Mr. Pinga: [dryly] He’s running on his experience. That’s why I listed his experience.
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Yorke: Tell me about your mission. What is it that really moves you to run for office and what do you think you are going to be able to accomplish in our Rhode Island State Senate?
Pinga: It’s no big secret that the state is in financial crisis. For years, been reading in the newspaper … for example, the tobacco settlement money. They used that money. We had a settlement of roughly $1.2b. They sold that off for $600m. One time fix. They took that money. They plugged the budget. They used it for the operations of the state. You know, that’s no different than me hitting the lottery to meet payroll this week. It’s not going to happen every week for 52 weeks. I’m sorry. Instead of grabbing the bull by the horns and say, look, we’re in trouble, something has to be done, they didn’t do that. They just continued to go on and on and on. They’re counting on the lead paint money. They should have had some fiscal responsibility, that’s what I mean.
Anyone there, the representatives, all senators at the State House, anyone there longer than ten years, they’re part of the problem. They saw this coming, they chose to do nothing about it. They just kept it going. And now we’re what, five-six hundred million in the hole.
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Yorke: Will you support Joe Montelbano as President?
Pinga: [emphatically] No.
Yorke: A no vote for Joe Montalbano from Michael Pinga?
Pinga: Yes. I may be running for Senate President myself
Yorke: Is that right.
Yorke: Well, first tell me why you don’t have the thought to support Joe Montalbano.
Pinga: I think that there’s one clique up there and that’s the clique we have to get rid of. Same old politics; same group of guys. You know, just doing whatever they want to do. I represent honest, clean government. I don’t owe anybody any favors. I’m not givng anybody jobs. I’m not looking to get anybody jobs. Don’t ask me to get a number plate for you! No favors.
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Yorke: Have you talked to some of the other players on the other Chamber, State House, the Speaker of the House?
Pinga: Yeah, I know Bill Murphy. He sent out a letter this weekend endorsing Senator Alves. That’s fine.
Yorke: What about Mr. Williamson, another big player in West Warwick?
Pinga: Yes, I spoke to him. I believe he’s part of the problem also.
Yorke: Did you tell him that?
Pinga: Yes, I did. He’s been there too long.
Yorke: What was his reaction?
Pinga: Wasn’t happy. Tried to mimic me. That doesn’t phase me.
Yorke: I cannot believe that Tim Williamson tried to mimic you. That’s just not in his … that’s just not in [laughing] his demeanor.
Pinga: On election day, he’s worried about me wearing a suit and tie. I had a tee shirt on and shorts. I says, I’m not about the fluff. This is me. I’m the real person.
Yorke: You were out there … Well, Laffey ran for Senate in a sweaty shirt all day long. What the hell, he almost pulled it off.
Pinga: Well, I guess for some reason, Mr. Williamson feels you have to be dressed up to win. Not the case, Timmy.
I’d also like to make a note that the Chairman of the Democratic party in West Warwick, after I submitted my papers to run, he told me in the parking lot that he doesn’t care about the state level, just the local level. They all thought it was a joke.
Yorke: That you were running.
Pinga: Yes. That Stephen’s unbeatable, too strong, knows too many people. Impossible. I’m going to get slaughtered.
It’s not about me and it’s not about him. It’s about what the people want. And the people have spoken. They’re sick and tired of it. They want change.
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Yorke: Did I read that Council 94 endorsed you?
Yorke: What’s that all about?
Pinga: I went there. I went for an interview and they endorsed me, I believe, because they can see that I’m a fair person. And I told them I would lead by example. I would not ask a person to take a cut if I’m not willing to take a cut. I was always brought up, never ask somebody to do something I’m not willing to do myself. I wold be the first one to take a 10% cut on anything before I ask you to take a 5% cut.
And I believe all the representatives and all the senators up there … Senator Alves killed the bill to pay 10% of his health care. “Needs more study.” What do you have to study? All it comes down to is greed. You just wanted to save the 10% for yourself. Yet you have the audacity to ask these people that have a contract to take a cut. Absolutely wrong in my eyes.
Mr. Pinga’s website available here.