PROVIDENCE — Steve Laffey — who has spent the decade and a half since his tenure as Cranston mayor flirting with or unsuccessfully running for various political offices between here and the Rocky Mountains — is seeking a new title.
President of the United States.
The long-shot campaign for the Republican nomination will highlight Laffey’s concerns over the future of the country, like Social Security, education, and trade with China, Laffey said.
And for the record, Laffey disagrees that he’s a long shot.
“Nobody thought I’d be the mayor of Cranston, too,” Laffey, 61, said in a phone interview Thursday. “But I was right for the times.”
Laffey is one of the more memorable characters in recent Rhode Island politics, drawing headlines in Cranston when he fired crossing guards, took on unions, and caught street sweepers sleeping. He served two rambunctious two-year terms, until the end of 2006.
He ran for US Senate in a primary against then-Republican incumbent Lincoln Chafee in 2006, but lost. One supporter, Pat Toomey, a La Salle Academy grad who would later become a US Senator for Pennsylvania, called the race the “first skirmish in a very important war.”
Laffey considered running for Rhode Island governor in 2010, but decided against it and moved to Colorado, where he lost a congressional primary in 2014. In 2019, he told this reporter that he was considering selling his home in Fort Collins and running for governor of Rhode Island in 2022. Neither of those things happened. Laffey said the decision was based on family considerations and the difficult political landscape for a Republican in Rhode Island.
Like Laffey, Chafee eventually relocated out West, and Chafee has also launched long-shot bids for president, although that’s about where the similarities end. Bitter feelings lingered; in an interview in 2019, Laffey described Chafee as a weird but nice guy, to which Chafee fired back that beating Laffey was his favorite of 10 electoral victories.
On Thursday, Chafee said via text message to The Boston Globe that he hadn’t heard about Laffey’s presidential run.
“What the heck, this is America!” Chafee said. “Personally I’d listen to anyone that stands up to the military industrial media complex that keeps getting us into unnecessary wars.”
Laffey is a father of six children with a background in investing. He has spent the last 12 years in Fort Collins, where he’s raised cows, horses, and other animals — a long way from his Edgewood upbringing in Cranston. He’s also written a book and put out a movie. He said he’ll soon start a podcast, which may include scenes from his nascent campaign.
Laffey said he’ll focus his campaign on New Hampshire in an effort to get on the debate stage to highlight his platform, including his plan to fix Social Security.
“Laffey will present this plan to Congress...some won’t like it,” his website promises. “If you have a better plan, where assets match liabilities over time, and the 63 trillion dollar deficit goes to zero...let me know...or get out of the way.”
Top-tier Republican candidates include former President Donald Trump, who has announced his run, and will soon reportedly feature former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Laffey’s latest endeavor was first publicly announced on Thursday, which, as it happens, is Groundhog Day. He said his campaign filed paperwork for the run Wednesday evening.
And what would he say to people who were skeptical that this was going to be a real thing? Laffey said he didn’t think people would say that.
“This is a very serious thing.” Laffey said.
Brian Amaral can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.