Flanders launches bid for US Senate

Former Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders has announced he is running for U.S. Senate at an event in Central Falls, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. (WJAR)

Former Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders has announced he is running for U.S. Senate as a Republican for the seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.

Flanders, 68, kicked off his bid Thursday in Central Falls, where he had acted as receiver in 2011, helping to bring the city out of bankruptcy.

Flanders said he has chosen to take on this campaign at a time when he could retire because he is inspired by a quote from Nelson Mandela, suggesting everyone should try to have as much impact as possible.

“The reason I’m doing this is, like many of you, I’m dissatisfied with the hyper partisanship we see in Washington, D.C. these days. The entrenched politicians who are there. There’s too much finger pointing and not enough handshaking going on,” he announced to a crowd of about 80 people.

Flanders was introduced by friends, who testified that he is a good teammate and problem solver, who worked his way through Brown University, and comes from a middle-class family.

One of the themes of the announcement ceremony was that Whitehouse is an elitist, who didn’t earn his wealth. Flanders classmate and friend, Richard MacAdams, got laughs from supporters when he said, “Everyone I know would rather have a beer with Bob than a chardonnay with Sheldon.”

Flanders continued on characterization of Whitehouse as privileged when he said, “It’s time to send silver-spoon Sheldon home.”

NBC 10 News later asked the candidate if a judge known for driving an expensive sports car and wearing tailored suits could pull off an attack on his opponent for having money.

“What I have in terms of material things are things that I’ve earned because of my practice. I wasn’t born into privilege and wealth,” Flanders said. “Draw the distinction between earning it and being given it.”

He said of the protesting Central Falls retirees outside the hall, that he preserved their pensions, even though they were reduced. He also promised to campaign in all areas of the state, including Democrat strongholds.

Flanders has been elected before -- to the Barrington town council. He served as chairman of the state Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education.

State Representative Bobby Nardolillo is already in the race and it’s expected there will be a primary for the Republican nomination. Flanders, however, is targeting Whitehouse.

“It’s time to stick a fork in all the arrogance, the prosecutorial pomposity and climate change bullying that have characterized his tenure. It’s time, ladies and gentlemen for a climate change in Washington, D.C.”

Flanders estimates he will have to spend between $1 million and $2 million to conduct the campaign.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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