Smithfield dentist Hasan Alsawaf challenges incumbent Stephen Archambault for District 22 seat

Smithfield dentist Hasan Alsawaf challenges incumbent Stephen Archambault for District 22 seat

SMITHFIELD - Republican Hasan Alsawaf, a 44-year-old native of Syria and owner of Family Dental Center of Greenville, is a political newcomer who said that he is a "different candidate" in the race for state Senate District 22, where he will face Democratic incumbent Stephen Archambault on Nov. 4.

Alsawaf, who has been a resident in Smithfield since 1998 and received his American citizenship this past May, said that if elected to the seat, he will do "whatever is in the best interest of the voters, not what's in the best interest for (him) or any political party."

His main target, he said, is political corruption and cronyism in the Statehouse, which he wants to try to eliminate by proposing a term limit on senators.

"Term limits empower democracy," he said. "We cut off insiders and lobbyists. The government is for the people. Let's remember that."

Archambault, a lawyer and former police officer, told The Valley Breeze & Observer that he is seeking re-election as a freshman senator because "there is a lot of work that still needs to be done."

In his role as state senator, he succeeded Democrat John Tassoni Jr., who did not seek re-election in 2012 after a dozen years in office. The current senator won 7,389 to 5,107 over Republican Richard Poirier, who is currently seeking a seat on Smithfield Town Council this election season.

If re-elected, Archambault said he has a number of bills that he wants to work on, including one that would make health care regulation "less onerous."

Not a fan of the tangible property tax, Archambault said that he wants to create a long-term economic development plan. "We need to come up with a plan that can be long term," he said, adding that he learned the power of patience from his parents, who were dairy farmers. "We can't do anything with one fell swoop."

Alsawaf, who repeatedly said that he wants to cut political insiders, told The Observer that it's not about who he knows but about what he can do for the state if elected.

He said that he won't approve any payments on 38 Studios without a full investigation by state and federal authorities, and that he wants to help improve Rhode Island's high unemployment rate, while making it the "jewel" of New England. "We need to bring more fresh blood into the government," he said. "That's why I am running for state senator. I can change things around in a positive direction in this state."

Alsawaf, who said that he arrived in America with $200 in his pocket before attending school and working his way up, added that he wants to improve the economic condition of the state and work to keep college graduates in Rhode Island. Keeping with the theme of education, he also noted that he has some concerns about the recently implemented Common Core standards, and that he wants to work to solve some issues to improve the quality of education in the district.

"I believe in standards," he said, "but the Common Core needs to be worked on."

He said that perhaps an integration of the old system of evaluation with the new standards would be a better solution to improving education in the state.

While thinking of ideas of new bills to work on if re-elected, Archambault has also been citing his past initiatives during his first term as state senator.

On his Facebook page, he wrote in September, "As a Democrat, I've supported bills for marriage equality, helping foreclosed tenants stay in their homes, environmental bills on improving the quality of our local farms and fisheries, promoting clean energy and global warming awareness ... lowering the corporate tax, promoting jobs through trades apprenticeships."

Both candidates said that they have been busy campaigning, and going door to door, speaking with residents.

Archambault said that he has been walking daily with Town Council candidates and Senate pages, covering ground that he covered during the primary election, as well as new territory.

"I've covered well over 5,000 houses in the district. I feel extremely confident," he said. "I am exactly where I should be.

"My response has been all positive," he added. "People have concerns about the issues, not on anything personal or with my performance." Alsawaf, who has never campaigned before, said that he's been going door to door and that the "district people are very nice."

In addition to his practice in Smithfield, Alsawaf has a satellite office in Boston. With only a couple of hours a day to campaign, he said that he's covered almost all of Smithfield, and he actively uses social media to campaign. His Facebook page has 1,796 likes.

Archambault, who frequently posts photos with residents and other local Democratic candidates on his Facebook page, has 3,379 likes.

Archambault added that he's a "big Facebook guy" for the first time during this election season.

In another attempt to reach more residents, Alsawaf said that he has hosted three meet-and-greet events at the Smithfield Senior Center, on Sept. 17, Oct. 1, and Oct. 15, and is hosting one more on Monday, Oct. 27.

An ad for the events reads, "Listening to you is one of the most important and meaningful things I get to do as your senator," and encourages residents to meet with both him and his wife, Elizabeth Senik-Alsawaf, who is running for Smithfield School Committee.

Both Alsawaf and Archambault have said that they are very optimistic about the upcoming election.

Alsawaf, who describes himself as "fiscally conservative and family-oriented," said, "We have to change things around by voting the right people in.

"I trust Rhode Island to make the right choice in November," he continued. "We have to vote incumbents out and get fresh ideas and candidates in."

As a freshman senator, Archambault said that he didn't miss a day of session or a single committee vote, and that he looks forward to returning to the Statehouse after Nov. 4.