After announcing his candidacy for Rhode Island Attorney General on Tuesday, former U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha made his first campaign stop in Johnston as he toured the town and spoke with constituents.
“I’m having lunch with the mayor who’s been great with his support from the beginning when I first met with him to talk about traveling this road a while ago. So it’s great to be in Johnston, I have a lot of friends here,” said Neronha. “Today is the first day of what’s going to be a long journey I suspect, but I’m anxious to get started and start meeting people around Rhode Island.”
Neronha made his announcement Tuesday morning from his home in Jamestown. He said his grandfather came to Jamestown when he was three, and that his family had been there since. The 53-year-old Democrat proudly stated that his sons are the fifth generation to live on the island.
Peter Kilmartin, also a Democrat, has served as Attorney General for two terms, the limit set for the office. Originally appointed by President Obama as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island in 2009, Neronha was ordered to resign by President Trump in March.
Making his rounds to the Johnston Senior Center, followed by lunch at Luigi’s Restaurant with Mayor Joseph Polisena, Neronha seemed eager to begin his campaign.
“I hope my message will resonate well. I spent some time here in the schools talking about this opioid crisis we’re facing. I was over at Ferri Middle School about a year or so ago with a mother who lost her child and I think, other than Warwick, they were the only eighth graders we spoke to,” he said. “I was really impressed with them and how great their teachers and administrators are doing, and how great their parents must be. But I mean that’s a real crisis that the parents of Johnston are concerned about, I’m concerned about it, and I thin we can work together and hopefully make some progress there.”
Neronha hopes to use his experience in law enforcement to tackle fraud in government.
“I think that we have to tackle public corruption. That was a priority of mine when I was a US Attorney. It holds the state back economically, companies won’t come here because they’re not sure there will be a fair playing field for them,” said Neronha. “So we have to continue to focus on that, I did a lot of that as US Attorney with North Providence, Central Falls, and the Speaker of the House.”
Neronha stated that there are significant problem with child sex trafficking across the state, which he hopes to continue to take that on and build a strong support network for victims.
“We have to be smart about violent crime. Johnston does a great job in keeping crime at low levels here, but it’s not far from places where there’s a more significant problem and so we have to focus on those urban areas, to really focus on people that are driving crime,” said Neronha. “You know, we all reach forks in our lives, and those people who are at that fork, mostly young people, if we can get them turned around we need to do that and we need to keep as many people out of the criminal justice system as we can, it’s expensive and it’s not a long term good thing for anyone.”
Following the Las Vegas shooting this week, Neronha stated gun violence is something that “all of us in law enforcement really struggle with.” He said one of the first things he did after hearing about the shooting was reach out to Steven Pare, Commissioner of Public Safety and Policy, who he’s known for a long time and is informed about these issues.
“There are no easy answers. I think we have to ask ourselves, can we as a country sit down and have a rational conversation about why this is happening and how can we prevent it. Unfortunately, we all have to deal with the horror of the moment, and we think about not only the families that are injured but our own loved ones,” said Neronha. “We have to get to a place where we can sit down and think through why this is happening, what steps can we take that are reasonable and fair to ensure it doesn’t happen again. It’s not an easy conversation, and it’s not an easy solution, because if it was we would have already come up with it.”
Mayor Joseph Polisena, who attended Neronha’s Jamestown announcement, said he is looking forward to helping the former U.S. Attorney in any way he can as he seeks office.
“I’m very happy that he’s running for the top spot in the state. He’s got a record that’s unblemished when he was our US Attorney. The government’s loss is our big gain,” said Polisena. “Peter’s not afraid to go after anybody if they commit a crime no matter who they are, as you can see from what he did at the State House, he cleaned up the State House. He’s not political, and that’s what you need from someone in this position, and I think he’ll absolutely make an excellent Attorney General.”
While the election is about a year away, Neronha believes he’s a qualified candidate that has the experience necessary to perform the duties required as Attorney General.
“I’m excited about my chances. I’m excited to meet Rhode Islanders. I got out of the office a lot as US Attorney, and I’m looking to do that in a much broader scale in the months ahead,” he said.