Every race for a general officer position in Rhode Island will have some kind of debate this year—except one: the race for Attorney General. Some debates will be more robust than others, but at least the nominees will have the chance to challenge and respond to their opponents in real time; thus providing Rhode Island voters a meaningful opportunity to compare and contrast their options.

 

Despite numerous requests for a debate in different forums, Incumbent Attorney General Peter Neronha (D) refuses to participate in a debate with his only opponent, me (R). Mr. Neronha creatively crafted each excuse, including questioning the character of the proposed moderator. I offered to allow Mr. Neronha his choice of forum, time and even suggested that he select the moderator, as I have nothing to hide from the Rhode Island public. However, neither Mr. Neronha nor his campaign responded to my proposal.

 

Besides being an obvious political tactic being used by incumbent candidates across the country to desperately hold onto their power, this is an incredible disservice to the people of Rhode Island, the people he has an explicit duty to serve. While the Attorney General race is not as sexy as the race for Governor or Congressional District 2, it is certainly more consequential to the everyday lives of every Rhode Island voter. The Attorney General is an independent constitutional officer in our state, who has nearly unlimited discretion in enforcing our laws, beyond enforcement of criminal statutes. The public is entitled to a clear understanding of how a candidate for Attorney General views the role of the Attorney General’s Office, so they can be confident that their Attorney General is actually fighting for their best interests and not just engaging in political posturing. It has been clear since Day 1 of the Neronha Administration that he prefers the partisan politics over the rule of law. After all, he immediately declared himself an “Activist AG” to the Boston Globe shortly after taking office and has consistently pandered to special interest groups aligned with his partisan views. Such behavior has taken an outsized importance within his office over the last four years, rather than enforcing Rhode Island law in a manner that is consistent with the interest of justice – the actual duty of the Attorney General.

 

Whether it’s his advocating for partisan bills that would turn law abiding Rhode Islanders into felons with the stroke of a pen, or his politically-motivated prosecutions that resulted in acquittals and even admonishments from trial justices, Mr. Neronha has clearly prioritized his own partisan agenda over serving as our state’s chief law enforcement officer and appropriately seeking justice to protect Rhode Islanders. That’s an explicit failure of the job he was elected to perform. The Rhode Island Attorney General must always seek justice in every matter that comes before the office and leave their personal politics at the door. I have vowed to do just that if elected to serve as Attorney General. No matter my personal views, I will always fight for the rights of Rhode Islanders against anyone who seeks to lessen them; I will always put the constitutions of the State of Rhode Island and the United States above any other agenda, and most importantly, I will always put the law above politics. Rhode Islanders will have four (4) years to render a verdict on my performance and I implore them to hold me accountable to my promises and the obligations of the Attorney General position.

 

I urge Rhode Island voters to really reflect on Mr. Neronha, his refusal to debate and answer questions, refusal to be responsive to all who sought his help, and his prioritization of his personal opinions over the justiciable application of Rhode Island law. Rhode Islanders must render their verdict on his four (4) years in office, on his failure to serve the people of Rhode Island, by voting him out this November and elect Charles Calenda as their new Attorney General.

 

Charles “Chas” Calenda is an attorney and the 2022 Republican Nominee for the Rhode Island Attorney General.

 

 

 

 

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