When former Republican State Representative Joseph Trillo entered the Rhode Island governor’s race as an independent, he promised a campaign that would rattle some longtime institutions, challenge longstanding policies and laws, while streamlining state government.
The very fact that the eight-term Warwick legislator would bolt his party to run as an independent, shocked many observers. But to Trillo, 74 and Donald Trump’s honorary campaign chair in Rhode Island in the 2016 presidential election, it is what he believes is his best chance to win the governorship.
He avoids a crowded Republican primary that now includes Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and state Rep. Patricia Morgan, R-West Warwick, the House minority leader. And, while not yet announcing formally, businessman Giovanni Feroce has said that he’ll also enter Republican primary.
Meanwhile, Governor Gina Raimondo, with upwards of $3 million in her campaign war chest, is the only announced Democratic candidate. Former Governor Lincoln Chafee has said he might join the race as a Democrat.
We recently had an opportunity to interview Trillo, as we continue to introduce the major candidates for statewide and Congressional office to our readership.
Chief among Trillo’s campaign initiatives is cutting taxes and streamlining state government, eliminating auto safety inspections, and returning discipline to schools.
And chief among what he said were his legislative accomplishments was making an onerous law less onerous. Trillo, who said he was an “industry leader in the security and alarm business,” was among the sponsors of the initial fire code revisions that emerged following the tragic Station Night Club fire that killed 100 people.
The efforts to revise the fire code following the Station fire “went insane,” Trillo said. “It was grandstanding at its greatest degree… I held it back from going crazy.”
He also counts among his legislative achievements his initiative that would have allowed law enforcement to check the immigration status of people who commit a crime (legislation did not pass); working to defeat the Narraganset Indian Tribe’s efforts to build a casino in Rhode Island; supporting small business; and advocating for the “average taxpayer.”
- Why he’s running as an independent, and not as a Republican. To win, he said, he’ll need the support of Republicans, Democrats and Independent. “As an Independent it will be much easier for me to work with Democrats.”
- President Trump. Trillo served as his honorary chair during the election, and describes himself as “very much” a Trump supporter. “I always admired Donald Trump as a businessman. Here’s a man saying the things I’ve been saying as a state Representative…his policies, his vision for the country, I support him 100 percent.”
- He wants to eliminate the state’s mandatory auto safety inspection system. “I think the people of Rhode Island are being ripped off. We have places inspecting cars where it’s in their best interest to tell people you need this, you need that replaced. In many cases you’re being taken advantage of and spending unnecessary money.”
- He wants to lower taxes to attract more jobs to Rhode Island. He’ll curb spending by “shrinking state government through attrition, getting rid of redundant departments. There’s a lot of obsolete departments, a lot of ineffective areas in these departments.”
- “A pet peeve of mine,” he said, is schools. “No discipline in many schools, the kids are out of control especially in the high schools and junior highs.” Discipline, he believes needs to be instilled in elementary schools, where teachers should be unafraid “to raise their voices … to criticize children. Basically, to instill discipline and not face the fear that they are going to lose their jobs because they might criticize little Johnny or raise their voice to him.”
Trillo had much more to say on many of the issues, which we’ll explore in future articles.