Farnum adds a twang to General Assembly race

Farnum adds a twang to General Assembly race

First-time candidate has ties to Nashville music

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - His dad lives in Glocester, his mom lives in Foster, and although he's been in Nashville nearly two years, 20-year-old Zach Farnum is running for state Senate from District 21 in the Nov. 4 election.

He is taking an unusual approach to the election. He is not going to campaign. He intends to spend no money. He will continue attending college and running the country music website he created in Tennessee until the election.

"With his deep spiritual background, Farnum is trusting God in this situation," says a press release he issued last month.

"I've decided not to campaign," he said in the same release. "Plain and simple, if the constituents feel led to vote for me, they will vote for me; if they do not, they will not."

Farnum, a 2012 graduate of Ponaganset High School, is taking on incumbent Sen. Nicholas D. Kettle, a Republican and Coventry resident representing a district with four towns, Scituate, Foster, Coventry and West Greenwich. Democrat Margaux S. Morisseau makes it a three-way race.

Kettle was elected in 2010 and seeks his third term this year.

Although the two are friends, Farnum said, he is calling Kettle to account for breaking his promise to serve only two terms in the state Senate.

"While (Kettle's) done a wonderful job, it's time for him to step aside," Farnum told The Valley Breeze & Observer in a telephone interview this week.

"As a Republican, he can't get the resources we need. He doesn't have a relationship with the leadership."

Out of 38 senators, five are Republicans.

"I just think, as a Republican, you can't get much done there. You fight a losing battle all time," Farnum said.

Farnum served as a page in the Senate in 2011 and 2012, when he came to know legislative leaders, he said.

"With my previous relationship with the leaders, working for them, I can do better for the district." He fondly recalled Sen. Paul Fogarty, a Democrat from Glocester, and Sen. Maryellen Goodwin, a Providence Democrat.

"I can't think of anything more joyful than walking into the Senate chambers each day to see (Goodwin) smiling back at me or cracking jokes with (Fogarty) before the session begins." Farnum said. "I miss those days."

The pages "always had fun at the end of the day," he said. "We knew we were doing our little part to help change history. I want to be one of the people on the front lines making things better for my constituents and all of Rhode Island."

Farnum is studying communications and music business at Trevecca Nazarene University, a Christian-centered accredited school in Nashville. He is perhaps best known in country and Christian music circles as the creator and executive director of That's Country Y'all, a national media outlet based in Nashville.

He says his success in Music City has seen him hobnob with the likes of Vince Gill, Amy Grant and Jeannie Seely.

An online show he developed, "Music City Live!," features interviews with country stars and performances by popular country musicians and, Farnum revealed, talks will take place in the coming months to make it a television show.

But SLps wait a minute SLps how can he produce a Nashville television show while being in Providence to serve in the legislature?

If he is elected, "the concept for the television show could be sold or handed off to somebody else," Farnum said without hesitation. He would transfer from Trevecca to Rhode Island College or the University of Rhode Island, he added. He is determined to earn his bachelor's degree. "Education is so important to me, personally," he said.

A large part of Farnum's minimal campaign - what he calls a "distant campaign" - is the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. "I don't plan to spend anything," he said. "I think this (District 21) is a grassroots district anyway where you vote for someone you know and someone you know will do a good job."

Farnum said he's always wanted to run for state office and almost did so right after he graduated from Ponaganset in 2012, but decided instead to spend more time in Nashville before making such a bid.

He lists his residence as 43 Moosup Valley Road in Foster, and his candidacy has been officially accepted by the Secretary of State's Office so his name will be on the Nov. 4 election ballot.

Both of Zach's parents are Ponganset High graduates; his dad, Robert Farnum of Glocester, is a retired state trooper, and his mom, Kathy Hawes of Foster, works at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence. His grandfather, Roger Hawes, in his 80s, is a member of the Foster Town Council. Another grandfather owned the former Stage Coach Tavern in Chepachet, now Tavern on Main.

Contacted for a response, Kettle took issue with several of Farnum's comments.

"I've gotten a lot of legislation passed for the towns I represent," Kettle said of charges that being a Republican limits his effectiveness.

"With the legislature so lopsided, we need people who are conservative Republicans to offer a different perspective."

As for his pledge to serve just two terms, Kettle said as a 19-year-old first elected to office he did not realize how long it can take to get things done. "It takes a lot to clean up Smith Hill," he said. "A lot of work needs to be done."