Barr takes on Paolino for Senate 17 seat

Barr takes on Paolino for Senate 17 seat

Democrat John Barr, left, and incumbent Republican Sen. Thomas Paolino.

LINCOLN – Voters in Senate District 17, representing parts of Lincoln, North Providence and North Smithfield, will choose between incumbent Republican Sen. Thomas Paolino and Democrat John Barr in the Nov. 3 election.

Barr, who served as a state representative from 1990 to 1994 and 1996 to 2002, quoted Edmund Burke in citing his reason for wanting to return to Smith Hill.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," he said.

“Going back to 2017, my opponent voted against Senate Bill S0738, which would have codified the Affordable Care Act into Rhode Island General Law. As someone with a heart condition, a pre-existing condition, this is near and dear to me," he added. "My opponent was one of six that voted against the bill to protect people with pre-existing conditions and against keeping children on their parents’ healthcare policies until age 26.”

“That one issue was the start of the genesis to get me to the point to run against him,” Barr added.

Paolino said he voted against the “tax on Rhode Islanders who do not want the health insurance that was included in that proposal, and the millions of dollars of fees associated with it,” and said it is simplistic for his opponent to conflate the issues.

He said he is in support of both covering pre-existing conditions and covering people under the age of 26 on their parents’ health plan.

“I have immediate family members that fall into both categories and I would not do anything to rob them of their healthcare coverage,” he said. “I am a strong supporter of the specific provisions mentioned and continue to be ready to vote in favor of codifying them into state law.”

Paolino said feedback on his performance from constituents has been positive, and that he has earned support on both sides of the aisle in his four years in office.

“I’ve been proud of my work getting things done for my district, whether it’s repaving roads, getting the Blackstone bike path fixed, or helping constituents throughout the COVID pandemic, answering their questions or assisting with unemployment,” he said. “I enjoy working on behalf of my constituents.”

Beyond their individual stances on the Affordable Care Act, Barr said he and Paolinno fall on opposite sides of many issues.

“When you look at the politician or candidate I am and look at the one he is ... these candidacies are diametrically opposed to each other,” he said.

Though the candidates were close in age when they entered politics in their early 20s, Barr said he has decades of experience under his belt now.

“As a small business owner, I know what it’s like to have to make your bills week in and week out,” he said, noting that he has been pledging to people during his campaign that he will not increase taxes or fees in any way.

Barr said he wants to fight to make the state more business friendly, especially for smaller endeavours, by supporting microloans and waiving fees for new businesses and lowering business taxes during the first few years of a new company’s life.

“When you look at what my opponent has introduced, there’s very little of substance ... nothing to move the state forward," he said. "He hasn’t passed any pertinent legislation, rarely asks any questions. I see that as extremely problematic.”

The issue on the forefront of people’s minds this campaign season has been the pandemic, with both candidates agreeing that recovering the state’s economy and budget shortfall need to be prioritized.

“We’re worried that we won’t receive any federal aid, and our leaders haven’t decided for us to meet to discuss what will happen if we don’t get that money,” Paolino said. “We need to think about Plan B. Taking care of the deficit will be my number-one priority.”

As a member of the minority party, Paolino said he’s also been given the opportunity to sit on a number of committees, including the COVID-19 Task Force and Finance Committee.

“My opponent, if elected, would be another Democrat at the bottom of the totem pole, unable to have a seat at the table," he said.

Barr said the state needs a senator who isn’t afraid to make cuts, while Paolino said he’d be in favor of zero-based budgeting “where we ask what these departments need and go from there to finalize a budget that can be met.”

Many are hurting right now, said Barr. "Some people say the virus hasn’t impacted them financially, but there are a lot of people out there who don’t know how they’re going to make their mortgage or utility payments. If something isn’t done, 2021 is going to bring financial ruin to so many people in this district that we haven’t seen in the likes of 30 years." He added that he doesn’t see his opponent rising to the challenge. “He’s on the COVID task force, but I haven’t seen anything productive come out of that yet.”

Barr also raised concern with a recent mailer sent by the Rhode Island GOP, which included information about Paolino’s campaign in an envelope labeled “Mail Voter Ballot Information.”

The Office of the R.I. Secretary of State posted on Twitter that they had received complaints about the mailer’s confusing return address and ballot-like materials.

Paolino said he was very surprised by the response to the mailer.

“Even if you thought it was something ballot-related, when you open it up it’s pretty obvious that it’s a piece of mail from me. It was obviously not my intention to mislead voters in any way, I just wanted to make sure people who had requested mail ballots had a chance to see my material before casting their vote,” he said.

Barr said he was disappointed that the mailer also included a line about his opponent supporting certain pieces of the Affordable Care Act after voting against it.

“That’s blatantly misleading. He made that vote, now he needs to own it. You don’t get to create your own set of alternative facts. It’s the type of politics people don’t appreciate right now. People want to be dealt with honestly,” he said.

Barr said he has the “experience, maturity and integrity” to better serve District 17.

Asked why he has earned another term at the Statehouse, Paolino said he’s an involved member of the community who will continue to put people over politics.

“The past four years in office have provided me with the experience necessary to be the voice of the district,” Paolino said, giving his constituents “a seat at the table” to advocate for their needs. “I’m always accessible, I give out my cell and I’m always available for questions, comments or concerns. I look forward to hearing from people. I’m a public servant and I’m here to serve my community.”


The Unaffordable Care Act ruined Health insurance for my family and millions of others by putting us in high deductible plans. If I get sick I have to pay 6k out of pocket before the insurance company pays a dime. I commend Senator Paolino for opposing this travesty of legislation the Democrats lobbed down our throats. They've ruined Health insurance for millions of people and are proud of it.

The statehouse is too heavy enough with democrats. They haven't accomplished anything in 8 decades of being in charge. High taxes and a ridiculous 10 billion dollar budget for this state is ridiculous. But the people in this state go about with blinders on.

I guess the “tax” is more important than health care to the Senator. He’s contradicting himself by saying he supports pre-existing conditions and staying on till 26, when he voted against it in RI. Like Mr.Barr said, he should just own his vote. There’s clearly not much reaching across the isle if he can’t support health care. One would think that’s a no brainer. Mr.Trump, and the Republican Party has taken the seat away from every day people. They just like to tell you that you still have a seat.

John Barr barely beat a dead guy in 1998. And Lincoln wouldn't have noticed a difference at the State House had either one of them won.

I have a problem with Mr. Paolino's demeanor regarding his own political mailer.
The article states Mr. Paolino feigned surprise over the negative responses.
Paolino's quote: “Even if you thought it was something ballot-related, when you open it up it’s pretty obvious
that it’s a piece of mail from me. It was obviously not my intention to mislead voters in any way, I just wanted
to make sure people who had requested mail ballots had a chance to see my material before casting their vote.”
What a total line of condescending baloney!
Mr. Paolino, you know what's worse than misleading voters?
Acting like people who question deceptive campaign mail aren't smart enough to spot deceit!
Adding on misleading information about your opponent,
Mr. Barr, and lying about your own vote,
further proves your inability to properly represent the people of R.I. with a seat in the Senate.
Quoting Mr. Barr regarding your political ad, "That’s blatantly misleading. He made that vote, now he needs to own it."
Mr. Barr is correct, you don’t get to create your own set of alternative facts!
People are sick and tired of the lies and want a Senator who will honestly work for them.

I have personally known Mr. Barr for forty four years and he is one of the most helpful and caring people I have ever known.
He is genuine, he cares, and will do his very best for the people of Rhode Island. It's time for a change.

Being against a horrible healthcare plan isn't the same as being against healthcare. Mr. Trump and Republicans side with individual liberty, not big government, unaffordable mandates which erode our freedoms. This is America after all.

Yes, let's vote for democrats again. RI isn't number 50 in quite every category.