Letter to the Editor: Thanks, Rep. Giarrusso

by | Nov 13, 2018

I am a resident of East Greenwich and was proud to be represented in the Rhode Island House of Representatives by Anthony Giarrusso for three terms.  

On November 7th, District 30 elected Justine Caldwell as its Representative in place of Mr. Giarrusso*. I do not have the pleasure of knowing Ms. Caldwell, and I am sure she will make a fine representative. In the lead-up to the election, however, my household received a general mailing from Ms. Caldwell accusing Anthony of being “content to sit back, dodge tough issues, and take the easy way out.” I have the honor of calling Mr. Giarrusso one of my closest friends, and I feel compelled to publicly state that nothing could be further from the truth.

Anthony originally ran for the sole purpose of trying to improve Rhode Island.  He had nothing to gain personally from representing District 30, and he never pursued or held his office for self-promotion. As I know from personal experience, Anthony spent long nights at the State House representing District 30 honorably and with the best interests of his constituents in mind. He regularly responded to constituents’ requests for assistance and strongly advocated for the district at the state level while fighting to improve the Ocean State’s business climate. In addition, he remained open to reaching across the aisle to forge compromises where possible.

I thank Anthony for his excellent service, for often taking the lead on legislative matters and, most importantly, for never taking the easy way out.


Stephen J. DiGianfilippo
November 8, 2018

* Editor’s Note: The Board of Elections announced Nov. 13 that Anthony Giarrusso has requested a vote recount. No date has yet been announced for the recount. 

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David Caldwell
November 13, 2018 9:28 pm

Two cases in which Rep. Giarrusso dodged touch issues and took the easy way out:

1. Roe v. Wade

Here’s his response to Engaged East Greenwich about it:

Q: Do you support codifying Roe vs. Wade to protect a woman’s right to choose in R.I. in the event the decision is overturned federally? Why or why not?

Giarrusso: I am not a lawyer, but I have spoken with several lawyers, both pro-choice and pro-life on this issue. They all tell me Roe is in little real danger of being overturned. Planned Parenthood v. Casey settled the legal issue in 1992. What is more likely is the passage of limited abortion restrictions that be upheld even while Roe itself is unchallenged. But Roe never prohibited abortion regulation – it just said there is a legal right to it in certain (typically early) circumstances. Personally, I think certain interest groups – on both sides – are using the issues to scare people and fund raise off it. Abortion is a deeply divisive issue with very passionate advocates on both sides. Very few do not have an opinion on the issue, but for most, it is not their main priority or even in the top ten and I feel my role should be focused on the state’s deep economic problems.

Note that he states no position on the Reproductive Health Care Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade. That is a dodge.

2. Assault weapons ban

Here’s an exchange Giarrusso had when my wife asked him to co-sponsor the assault weapons ban. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VbCD43tc_Owa4egHB5XaUCH2aMksssb6/view

Note how he repeatedly declines to both state a position or take any action. He uses Rep. Keable — recently ousted by voters from the House amid accusations of sexual harassment — to try to inoculate himself on the issue. (In the middle, he also tries to explain two gun bills to Justine, when in fact, he is confused about them.)

In the end, he refuses to say whether he’s for or against it.

So I am glad that the author of this letter never had the experience of Rep. Giarrusso dodging tough issues and taking the easy way out. But the truth is, he did — about issues many of his constituents cared about deeply.

Joseph A. O'Hara
Joseph A. O'Hara
November 13, 2018 11:22 pm
Reply to  David Caldwell

Mr. Caldwell:

First of all, Rep. Giarrusso never “dodged tough issues and took the easy way out”, as you have opined in your comment! He always considered all issues carefully and thoroughly before coming to an educated and well-thought out position on all issues.

From your comment, it looks like you are campaigning all over again. Tsk, Tsk! and Shame on You!! Why don’t you just move on! Pending the “noted recount” result, the election is over so why don’t you be nice and like the rest of us, thank Rep. Giarrusso for running a good and honest campaign and wish him well in the future, rather than continue to, and unfairly “jam” him on issues, which is unkind, untimely and unnecessary. As stated, if you can’t be nice and thank Rep. Giarrusso for his service, then “just be quiet”.

Mr. DiGianfilippo kindly took the time to offer his thanks to Rep. Giarrusso, for his honest and sincere efforts and contributions to the communities of EG & WG and the whole state of RI for that matter over the past six years. You took the “Thanks” of Mr. DiGianfilippo and tried to turn it into something political and negative with your comment. Guess what, that didn’t work with me!

All of us, and that includes you ‘my friend’, in EG & WG should say “THANK YOU” to Rep. Giarrusso for giving his time, talents and energy in bettering EG & WG and the state of RI.

Over the years, I have come to know Rep. Giarrusso well. As far as I am concerned, he is “The Real Deal” and I hope we will be “hearing from him again” in the future. That would be a “Good Thing”!

Stephen, thank you for your “Letter to the Editor: Thanks, Rep. Giarrusso”. Let me add my “Thanks to Rep. Giarrusso”, as well!!!

David Caldwell
November 14, 2018 7:21 am

Mr. O’Hara:

I would totally agree with you under normal circumstances. But It’s not me who is “campaigning all over again,” and it’s not me who is not being “nice” — it’s Giarrusso. Giarrusso has continued to attack my wife, even after the campaign is over. So in that context, I think it’s important to set the record straight.

Rep. Giarrusso wrote this about Mr. DiGianfilippo’s letter, three days ago (five days after the election):

“Thanks for setting the record straight Steve. It would have taken a novel to stand up to the rest of the disgusting lies from them during this campaign. I guessed wrong that negative attacks don’t work at this level.” — written in multiple places; one is here: https://www.facebook.com/anthony.repgiarrusso/posts/934197480103653

My wife and her campaign did not engage in disgusting lies. She told the truth. So when others attack her, she deserves for the facts to be presented — with evidence, as I did here — so that people can accurately evaluate them.

I have no doubt that Mr. Giarrusso usefully served many members of this community over his six years in office, and of course when he did, that was praiseworthy. And I, just as you, would be happier to focus on those sentiments now that the election is over.

But my wife has done nothing to deserve what he’s been saying. And it shouldn’t go unanswered.

November 14, 2018 8:40 am

Truth is in the eye of the beholder, evidently. How far we have fallen when Truth is confused with opinion so easily. It’s no use parsing the finger-pointing in a political campaign, but some of the attacks aimed at Rep. Giarrusso seemed more rooted in maliciousness than facts. I can only speak to Rep. Giarrusso’s character, which to me seems exceptional. He tackled every difficult issue with genuine interest, energy, and no self-aggrandizement. Coming to a different opinion than some might like is not dodging an issue, it’s coming to a different opinion. Thank you Anthony! Your departure from the Statehouse is a loss for EG and Rhode Island.

David Caldwell
November 14, 2018 3:55 pm
Reply to  Dean

The reason I responded to this letter in the first place is because Rep. Giarrusso is using it to attack my wife with extremely aggressive language like “disgusting.” See, for example, here: https://www.facebook.com/anthony.repgiarrusso/posts/934197480103653

That is not fair to her, not fair to the campaign she ran, and not fair to her upcoming role replacing him in the legislature.

She worked hard, she ran a positive, issue-based election campaign and raised two kids under 7 at the same time, she won the election, and still her opponent is attacking her and tearing her down after the election is over. “Exceptional” character?

Carla Swanson
Carla Swanson
November 15, 2018 9:42 am

Thank you, David Caldwell, for providing evidence to back up your rebuttal. Your statements are not “opinion,” given that they are backed up with Giarrusso’s own writing and words.

I saw Giarrusso’s post-election, sour grapes mischaracterization of Justine’s campaign and was disappointed, but not surprised, as it followed Mr. Giarrusso’s negative campaign strategy. That strategy was not effective, I can’t see what he hopes to gain by continuing with it now, or what Mr. DiGianfilippo’s intent was, calling attention to a comparatively mild, and documentably accurate, campaign mailer (Roe v Wade and gun safety legislation are two tough issues that Giarrusso, in his own words, dodged). Mr. DiGianfilippo could have simply written a letter praising his friend, and left it at that. Instead, he uses his LTE to try to throw shade on our newly elected representative.

Justine earned the majority vote by hard work, a deep knowledge of the issues, and clearly and consistently articulating her positions. I’m looking forward to moving forward. I wish Mr. Giarrusso and his surrogates would do the same.

Joseph A. O'Hara
Joseph A. O'Hara
November 15, 2018 11:45 pm

Ms. Swanson:

Let us be clear: The original “Post (Letter to the Editor)” and subsequent supporting “Comments” is about supporters and friends of Rep. Giarrusso thanking him for his years of service in representing EG & WG at the statehouse. No where, either in the original “Post” by Mr. DiGianfilippo or subsequent “Comments/Replies” by me or Dean, were any negative remarks made about Mrs. Caldwell. Our comments were all about thanking Rep. Giarrusso. In fact, in the original “Letter to the Editor”, Mr. DiGianfilippo, in reference to Mrs. Caldwell, kindly stated that “I am sure she will make a fine representative”.

In contrast, please take note that in Mr. Caldwell’s reply to my “Comment” and his subsequent reply to Dean’s “Comment” and also in your “Comment”, both you and Mr. Caldwell chose to be negative and continue a “campaign” of biased, unfair, negative and unnecessary comments about Rep. Giarrusso. C’mon, the election is over, so “let’s play nice”.

So, Mr. DiGianfilippo, Dean and I were positive in expressing our Thanks to Rep. Giarrusso with no “Negativity” directed at all to Mrs. Caldwell, our new representative. However, you and Mr. Caldwell chose, in your comments, to “take a different road” (i.e., THE “LOW ROAD”).

And by the way, we are not “surrogates”, as you have described us, of Rep. Giarrusso; but are individuals who support him and believe in his positions on issues, just as you are a supporter of Mrs. Caldwell.

So, yes, Rep. Giarrusso and his supporters will “move forward”, indeed.

On a sincere positive note, I do wish Mrs. Caldwell, as our new Representative, and her family well in the future. I trust and hope that she will do good things in representing the residents of EG & WG.

David Caldwell
November 16, 2018 7:12 am

Mr. O’Hara,

Thank you for your kind words toward my wife.

I apologize for not contextualizing my initial remarks when I made them — it was a blind spot, I forgot not everyone reads everything. I was responding to Rep. Giarrusso’s post-election attacks on my wife *using* Mr. DiGianfilippo’s letter. Giarrusso’s attacks are much harsher than anything I wrote. I would not have responded to Mr. DiGianfilippo’s letter otherwise (although his criticism of my wife’s mail was unnecessary, as long as we’re going to “play nice”).

Again, since you call on us to “play nice,” are you not equally — or more — upset with Mr. Giarrusso for continuing to attack my wife after the election is over? Does he, in your view, not have to “play nice?” Why not?

That’s the part that’s hard to let stand. He uses this letter that you say is not negative (although it directly criticizes my wife’s campaign mailer) to attack my wife in harsh terms even after losing the election, but you’re focused on me for trying to set the record straight. He writes things like this: https://www.facebook.com/anthony.repgiarrusso/posts/934197480103653 (in which he uses the word “disgusting” and gives my wife no credit for her victory).

Why are you so focused on Ms. Swanson and I, rather than the outgoing officeholder attacking and undermining his successor?

I understand the two of you are friends, but can you not see the contradiction in what you’re doing?

Joseph A. O'Hara
Joseph A. O'Hara
November 16, 2018 11:41 pm
Reply to  David Caldwell

Mr. Caldwell:

Please allow me to finally “shortstop” you and Ms. Swanson regarding the “Letter of Thanks” for Rep. Giarrusso’s service as our State Representative.

In response to comments made by you and Ms. Swanson,I made my comments and thoughts known to you and did not disparage or be negative towards Mrs. Caldwell in any way. Nor did the individual who wrote the “Letter of Thanks”. We were both positive toward Mrs. Caldwell in wishing her well, etc. In my comments, I only stated that the “Letter of Thanks” was not the right “setting” or “vehicle” for any political negativity on your part or Ms. Swanson’s part. As I have said before, the election is over and there should be no further discussion of positions on issues, etc.

And by the way, there is no “contradiction”, at all, on my part! Whatever comments which were made or not made by Rep. Giarrusso, were not the subject or purpose for my comments to you. My only concern was your negative attitude regarding positions and issues, thru you comments, in response to the “Letter of Thanks”.

So, for your reading pleasure, please review my prior comments and hopefully you will be able to understand “The King’s English”.

The only thing that I am “focused” on is that I am not happy with the fact that you and Ms. Swanson “won’t quit” the nonsense.

So, I am done with this exchange with you. Thank you very much!

And yes, I really do wish Mrs. Caldwell success at the RI Statehouse and that she will pursue the well being and interests of all residents of EG & WG,!!

Have a Great Day Tomorrow!


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