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Former Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders of East Greenwich, formally announced earlier this week his candidacy for U.S. Senate, opposing Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who Flanders has characterized as arrogant, pompous, and a climate change bully.
But before he squares off against the two-term Senator, Flanders, 67, will have to win a primary election against fellow Republican State Representative Robert Nardolillo, 38, of Coventry. Nardolillo’s family owns Nardolillo Funeral Home. He was first elected to the state House in November 2014. Nardolillo announced his candidacy in June.
Flanders’ announcement was expected. He has indicated for months his intention to run. He says he supported President Trump and many of his goals, but feels he does not have to run with him, and doesn’t have to be tied to all his policies.
At a press conference earlier in the week, and in many published or viewed interviews, while calling Whitehouse a climate change bully, he said he too believes climate change exists and supports diversification of non-fossil-fuel-based energy sources.
Flanders, one of seven children, said he was brought up in a working-class family, attended Brown, where he played both football and baseball, playing in the minor leagues in the Detroit Tigers’ organization for three years, while pursing his law degree at Harvard.
He entered the practice of law, twice won election to the Barrington Town Council, and served in a variety of governmental capacities at various levels before his appointment to the state Supreme Court, where he served for nearly nine years.
He returned to private practice, and most notably was named Receiver for the financially beleaguered Central Falls. He was instrumental, along with a consultant he hired, Gail Corrigan, in “righting” the city’s finances, but at the expense of slashing employees’ pensions. He and Corrigan were accused of taking more than $1 million in fees from the Central Falls bankruptcy.
Corrigan surfaced again in East Greenwich, where Flanders said he had been talking with Town Council President Suzanne Cienke, a lawyer and a Republican. Flanders was advocating a similar approach in East Greenwich Schools, also struggling financially, as in Central Falls. Corrigan was hired, proposing to consolidate several school and town functions, resulting in the firing of the Town Finance Director Kristen Benoit, and several others.
Fast forward and the town manager is ousted at a Monday morning meeting that Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl has ruled was in violation of the state’s open meetings law. Corrigan is appointed acting town manager, until the McGuirl decision that was followed by another bizarre East Greenwich council meeting that was expected to hire Corrigan, but ended before it began because of the overflow crowd at the meeting.
Interestingly among Flanders chief financial backers, according to federal campaign finance records covering the period ending Sept. 30, are Corrigan, $5,400; Cienki, $1,000; and Linda Dykeman, who was named East Greenwich Finance Director in June, $5,400. Flanders had a cash balance of $284,652, and loaned his campaign $100,000.
Nardolillo, who also acknowledged his belief in climate change, reported a cash balance in state campaign finance records covering the period ending Sept. 30, of $5,673.99. He also reported a cash balance in federal filing of $36,614, including $550 from a gun ownership political action committee. Flanders said he’s a second amendment supporter, but with reasonable limitations.
Neither Republican candidate comes near the Whitehouse’s $2,560,456 campaign finance fund, as reported federally for the period ending Sep. 30. Whitehouse lists several donations from ActBlue, presumably from individual donors whose money flows through the organization that describes itself as “a nonprofit, building fundraising technology for the left. Our mission is to democratize power and help small-dollar donors make their voices heard in a real way.”