Paul Pence is one of the two Republicans currently running for Lieutenant Governor.
“I was an army brat. And army brats all grow up wanting one thing that they just can’t get anywhere, and that is a home. Rhode Island gave me a home. As I developed my skills, I realized that my home wasn’t really what I wanted it to be. I wanted it to be better. I wanted Rhode Island to be what it can be rather than a place where things aren’t working right. I’m an engineer, I [have] to fix things and I want to fix my home,” Pence described as the reason he’s running.
Pence ran for the office as the Republican nominee in 2018, garnering 29.1% of the vote versus then-Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee. All campaigns throughout the country are very different now versus 2018, including Pence’s.
“The very first time [I ran], I was clearly an outsider. I was somebody who came in without any history, without any record. It was difficult getting acceptance by the party. Just like anybody else would if they are running for a statewide office with no background in politics. I still am an outsider, but they know who I am now,” Pence said, “So I’m very happy to believe that I’m going to be getting an awful lot more support from the established part of the Republican party than I did in the past. And I have proven myself as somebody who works tirelessly to get the job done. And in this case, to run for office and make sure that things work.”
There is one key issue Pence says he wants to focus on. “The key issues have always been the same thing. Rhode Island government is ineffective. It’s inefficient, it’s definitely not customer-friendly. The entire process of government is overly complicated, it’s unpleasant to work with.”
He added, “There’s a million things in the state [not customer-friendly]. Some of them [are] so much more critical like Armor’s Management Systems, our Health and Human Services. Those things really affect [us]. People have severe consequences when they’re done badly. Those are things that I believe that the access the Lieutenant Governor has and the administrative freedom the office has gives the opportunity to get in and knock on doors and say ‘look you got a problem, let me help you fix it’.”
One of the current priorities the current Lieutenant Governor plans to address is housing. The issue of housing in Rhode Island is multi-faceted and complicated. Pence says, “If you’re going to change the housing situation, you’ve got to change the zoning rules. There are logical [and] rational ways of changing it rather than subsidizing housing.”
Another top priority of the last two Lieutenant Governors is to help out small businesses in the state. The main problem Pence believes faces small businesses is regulations. “We live in a world where politicians do things to show they’re involved, they’re engaged. They do that by passing laws and regulations. Those things stack up. We need to simplify [and] get rid of them. Get rid of the unnecessary ones, simplify the ones that are absolutely necessary. Make life easier so our businesses can thrive,” he said.
The office of Lieutenant Governor faces scrutiny from some politicians. For example, RIC Alumnus Bob Healey famously ran campaigns on closing the office if elected. Some Republicans share a similar attitude toward the office and want to see the $1 million a year budget used in other areas. Pence wants to see the office used effectively.
“We have had people who have treated the role of Lieutenant Governor as a hammock. If that’s what we do as the role of Lieutenant Governor, it’s an absolute waste of our money. We don’t need somebody to be sitting there just waiting for the Governor to die. There are actual tasks [and] responsibilities for the role of Lieutenant Governor. If he’s doing his job right, he’d be in the Governor’s businesses 24/7. He’d be able to take over if necessary,” Pence said. “In addition, he has to fill 32 different council slots, three of those council slots he would be chairing himself and three of them he’d be serving on as [a] member. That’s councils like the Intergovernmental council and the councils on homelessness. There’s plenty of work for a real Lieutenant Governor, we just don’t need somebody to see it as a place to retire while still collecting a paycheck.”
Additionally, Pence and I spoke about non-political topics such as his hobbies and what he thinks Rhode Island is best known for.