Narragansett Democrat Winters B. Hames III said he's looking to unseat Republican Dawson Hodgson in the race for state Senate District 35 because as a Democrat he'll be able to get more done.
"I think I could do a better job than Dawson," Hames said in a phone interview Monday. "I can work with the Democrats that are there. It’s very difficult for a member of the minority to get things done. Look at Dawson’s legislative record. You don’t get things accomplished that have to get accomplished."
[You can find Hodgson's 2012 legislative record here.]
This is not Hames's first run for elected office. In 1986, he lost a bid for state Representative, and he's been on the ballot for Town Council "several times" he said. He serves as chair of the Narragansett Democratic Town Committee.
Hames said District 35 was not well drawn in the redistricting plan that passed in the General Assembly during the last sesson.
"The Senate district they created … I argued against creating it as it is," he said. "It’s very difficult for anybody to represent it."
District 35 comprises most of East Greenwich, a good chunk of North Kingstown, and parts of Narragansett and South Kingstown. Two years ago, when Hodgson was elected, District 35 was made of up of North Kingstown and East Greenwich.
Hames said the pension reform enacted earlier this year was "a step in the right direction" but he said, "I would prefer to negotiate instead of just doing things unilaterally."
A lot of the focus of the pension debate has been on people with pensions over $100,000 a year, but that misses the larger picture, Hames said.
"A lot of people have $25,000 pensions," he said. For those people, Hames said he wants cost of living increases (COLAs) to be reinstated as soon as financially possible.
"I know we can’t sustain compound COLAs but there’s got to be some way of doing things and not blaming it all on the retirees," Hames said. "What we’ve done essentially is take money out of some people’s hands so they can’t spend it" and spending would spur the economy.
"You create jobs by finding a way to get money back into the middle class in particular," he said. To that end, he said, "We need to work to try to attract more businesses to the state."
He is against a $500 a year tax on businesses in the state. "I would want to either eliminate it all together or for companies under 50 employees," he said.
"We need to work to try to attract more businesses to the state. We’re a small state. We pay for being small," Hames said. He said places like Quonset need to be capitalized on. "Quonset – that's a great place to expand."
With regard to education, Hames said he's interested in increased funding for the state colleges and universities.
"I think you have to look seriously why we’re only funding the University of Rhode Island at 8 percent when it’s the state university," Hames said. Hames's wife is teaches at URI's College of Nursing.
And he said good schools are a hugely important issue: "There’s got to be something that ensures that everyone gets a good education in the state of Rhode Island."
Unlike Hodgson, Hames is not completely opposed to binding arbitration, a controversial bill backed by teacher unions but generally opposed by school committees that has a third-party arbitor making binding decisions about school-teacher contracts.
"It doesn’t always come down in favor of the union. If it’s a way to avoid teacher strikes to get things done, then I would be for it," he said.
Hames, 68, is married and has two grown children and three granddaughters.
Winters B. Hames III and his opponent, Sen. Dawson Hodgson, will meet in at the Varnum Armory on Main Street in East Greenwich. You can find a profile on Hodgson here. The three state House Dist. 30 candidates will also debate that night. If you have any questions for the candidates, please post them below or here or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.