Gay Man Challenges Incumbent R.I. Senator
Former gubernatorial candidate Todd Giroux is taking on incumbent U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in the September Democratic primary.
Giroux, 41, runs his own contracting business in Bristol where he lives. His top priorities if elected include reforming the country’s banking system, which he believes has been unfair to middle and working-class people.
The high rate of foreclosures and the shortage of credit given to homeowners and small businesspeople are also major concerns, according to Giroux. He also remains critical of Wall Street.
"Their fraud has suffocated Main Street," said Giroux.
Giroux said Whitehouse has been unable to effectively deal with these issues. He said he would give voters "a good old-fashioned voice for Main Street."
A Brown University poll in February shows voters have their doubts about Whitehouse with a 30 percent job approval rating. In spite of this disapproval, a WPRI poll conducted in February showed that Whitehouse would beat Newport businessman Barry Hinckley by a 22-point margin.
The dismal economic climate (Rhode Island currently has the country’s second highest unemployment rate) and decaying infrastructure also concern him.
Giroux grew up in Woonsocket and Cumberland and later graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a psychology degree. He ran his own advertising company. Giroux has worked as a contractor for the last 20 years, continuing the business started by his father.
Giroux, who is gay, sought to succeed then-Gov. Don Carcieri in 2010.
He proclaimed his sexual orientation at a State House rally for marriage equality that then-rivals Attorney General Patrick Lynch, State Treasurer Frank Caprio and former U.S. senator (and current governor) Lincoln Chafee also attended.
Giroux said his status as an openly gay man was never a problem, although being surrounded by more seasoned politicians was intimidating at first. The experience proved beneficial, however, and Giroux feels he can offer a fresh alternative to his rivals.
"My motivations are very genuine," he said. "That’s what people see over time."
DOMA Singles Out "One Class of People"
Giroux supports the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which he considers discriminatory.
"It’s singling out one class of people," he noted.
With the fight for marriage equality still ongoing in Rhode Island, Giroux said he remains particularly frustrated with the Roman Catholic Church’s stance on the issue. This issue remains personal for him; he was raised Catholic and attended Providence’s La Salle Academy.
"For me, I’ll never be asked to speak at my high school," said Giroux, noting he was bullied as a child. "They’re never going to ask a gay guy running for office to speak."
Giroux also stressed he feels the political process has been tainted by the emergence of SuperPACs funded by ultra-wealthy donors. He admits that taking on Whitehouse will be an "uphill battle," but feels he has a duty to represent the state’s working class voters.
"I will be the strongest candidate and I will keep on fighting," added Giroux.
Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.