By Mark Reynolds
PROVIDENCE, R.I. –
A 57-year-old West Greenwich man who served in the Army before he ran a plumbing business is the Republican candidate who hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin next month.
To continue his run in Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District, which started in 2000, Langevin must vanquish Salvatore G. Caiozzo on Nov. 6.
Langevin has done this before. But the political landscape has changed since the 54-year-old Democrat beat Caiozzo in 2016.
This is not to say that Caiozzo, who ran as an independent that year, now represents himself as Rhode Island’s version of President Donald Trump.
“I am Sal,” Caiozzo says in the early moments of his interview. “Sal is a guy who has been out here with everybody else and knows exactly what everyone is going through. I have my own platform.”
“Yes, I am a Republican, because I stand by certain Republican values, but it doesn’t mean I stand by all of them,” adds Caiozzo, who describes his politics as moderate and not unlike those of a John F. Kennedy Democrat.
That said, here are a few things that Caiozzo and Trump agree on:
Like Trump, Caiozzo supports members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization spending more money on their own defense.
“I think we’ve been used long enough by NATO,” says the candidate, who won endorsement from the Republican Liberty Caucus, an association of the GOP’s libertarian-leaning activists.
But if the U.S. spends less money on its NATO commitments, Caiozzo says, the savings should benefit veterans.
Caiozzo, who says he was disabled by exposure to chemicals on an Alabama Army base in the 1980s, talks quite a bit about supporting veterans.
Like Trump, Caiozzo wants to change the nation’s health-care policy. But he says he would not abandon parts of the Affordable Care Act that provide coverage for preexisting conditions.
Schools and education decentralization are central to the Taunton, Massachusetts, native’s platform. He says he wants to improve education across the country and he believes education should be governed at the state and local levels, not by the federal government.
Neither Caiozzo nor Langevin brought up the probe being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.
When prompted, Caiozzo says, “I haven’t really seen the Mueller investigation come up with anything.” He adds that he regards the probe as a “waste of money.”
Langevin said if he and other Democrats can control the House after the election, they can provide stronger checks and balances on Trump generally.
He is hopeful, he says, that even with the current Republican majority in the House, Congress will keep Trump from shutting down the investigation.
“I’m determined to let the truth come out and let the facts lead where they will,” Langevin says.
But taking control of the House would “certainly allow us to advocate for and put forth policies that are important to building a strong middle class in this country,” he says.
“We would end attempts to try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act,” he says. “And we would hopefully work on ways to strengthen and improve health care, quality health care, in the country, and also work on growing good-paying jobs to further grow a strong middle class.”
The experienced politician has lots to say about how he would proceed if given the chance.
Langevin’s focus is on the middle class, improving the health-care system, launching infrastructure projects, protecting the country from cyberattacks and reducing gun violence.
“The country is at its best when we have a very strong middle class,” says the Warwick resident, who also says political leaders must do what’s possible to help Rhode Islanders gain the skills they need to find good-paying jobs.
Langevin, the first quadriplegic elected to Congress, was paralyzed when he was accidentally shot as a 16-year-old. He says he’s captivated by research that shows that a large proportion of all guns tied to crimes are funneled through a very small proportion of companies that supply guns.
“There is something wrong with that,” he says.
Salvatore G. Caiozzo
Residence: West Greenwich
Occupation: Retired from plumbing business, disabled veteran
Affiliation: Republican Party
Education: Monsignor Coyle & Cassidy High School, attended Labore Junior College and the University of Palermo
Previous elected office: None
Family: Single with two grown sons and one daughter
JAMES R. LANGEVIN
Occupation: U.S. representative
Education: Rhode Island College, Harvard University
Previous elected office: Rhode Island secretary of state, 1995-2000; state representative, 1989-1994