The 2010 election is just under three years away, but at least one candidate has decided that it’s never too early to get started.
Providence City Solicitor Joseph M. Fernandez filed organizational papers with the Board of Elections to campaign for attorney general.
“I certainly have the experience to be the chief lawyer for the state. For five years I have managed good government lawyers who do a wide range of government prosecution,” Fernandez said. “I’ve been very sober minded and serious on some of the really tough issues; I think that I would take to that well.”
Getting ahead on fundraising was a consideration for filing now, but just as important was a family-imposed deadline to set the end of 2007 as a time to take stock and decide the next step for himself, his wife, and his twin 5-year-old daughters, Fernandez said.
Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch is term-limited and must leave office at the end of 2010. Fernandez, 43, has spoken with Lynch and sought his advice. Fernandez’s wife, Emily Maranjian, is a state prosecutor.
Fernandez’s candidacy was first reported on the Providence Phoenix’s Not for Nothing blog.
Fernandez, a Harvard Law School classmate of presidential candidate Barack Obama, campaigned in New Hampshire with his friend this weekend.
“It’s just coincidental, the timing, but it’s been educational,” Fernandez said. He said he will campaign for Obama locally until the March 4 primary, and then may kick off his own campaign in earnest with a fundraiser soon after.
Fernandez’s boss, Mayor David N. Cicilline, is rumored to be seeking higher office himself, but as to whether he would support Fernandez for attorney general or campaign with him when the time comes, he was noncommittal.
“I think it’s very early in the process to see if he’s going to actually be a candidate, so I think it’s a bit early for that,” Cicilline said.
Cicilline praised his solicitor’s job performance.
“I have enormous respect for the city solicitor and think he’s done a terrific job. And if he decides ultimately that he wants to do that, I wish him well.”
That said, not everyone has been happy with Fernandez’s work. Councilman John J. Lombardi challenged his reappointment as city solicitor last year, blasting him for what he said was poor administrative skills running his department.
Upon hearing of Fernandez’s interest in the state’s top legal job, Lombardi again weighed in, saying that if he wants to run for higher office, he needs to step down as city solicitor.
“I think that’s a conflict, I think he should definitely resign,” Lombardi said. “Are there matters that his office is handling that will help him politically? In order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, he needs to resign.”
Fernandez said he is conscious of that issue, and would resign when the election is close and he begins campaigning full time. Until then, he has asked the state Ethics Commission for guidance in how to proceed and is studying the conflict of interest statutes to ensure he can avoid problems.
“It might lead to conflicts of interest, just as it would for any other government employee or official who is running for office,” Fernandez said. “The solution is to try to prevent those conflicts from arising and address them if and when they occur.”