When Anthony Giarrusso gets into something, he's all in. First it was the jewelry company he founded and got his four brothers to join. Then it was family life and activities like EG Little League. Now it's his run for the open state Representative Dist. 30 seat.
A Republican, Giarrusso won the GOP primary in September with the help of an agressive campaign of yard signs, advertising, and good old-fashioned pressing the flesh.
He's back at it for the general election, Nov. 6, where he again faces two challengers, this time independent Kevin McDonough and Democrat Mark Schwager.
The reason, he said, is simple: "I'm a family man. I'd be devastated if my kids had to move to Virginia say because they can't find jobs here."
Giarrusso's is a classic American-style success story. He was born in Italy and came with his parents to the U.S. as a young boy. He started AG&G Inc., a jewelry company based in Johnston, in 1986, a couple of years out of college (he has a business degree from RIC), and all four of his brothers ended up joining the company. They own it together.
"You can't expect things to be given to you," he said while going door-to-door campaigning on Spring Street last Sunday. He's been campaigning on weekends with his wife, Janet, who carries a binder filled with voter registration info that he compiled. They are a team.
"We're living the dream," Giarrusso said. "We love spending time together. This is the trenches right here."
"We just met someone, she was a victim of the banking crisis in '91," he said. "She picked herself up and started an upholstery business," he said with admiration.
At the house of Pierre and Millie Mali, Giarrusso was asked what he thought of ballot measures 1 and 2, which would bring table games to Twin River and Newport Grand.
"I am 100 percent against it," he said, noting recent layoffs at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. "Do we really want to put all that money in infrastructure" and then have it fail?
Giarrusso's not against gambling per se, but thinks gambling should remain at destination locations like the Bahamas.
Pierre Mali also brought up regulations, noting the way Rhode Island manufacturers in the past would just dump their waste into Narragansett Bay.
"I'm all for the DEM," said Giarrusso, "most of their work is good. I'm a citizen before I'm a candidate."
He talked about his company's plating business. "We have a 'closed-loop' system," he said. "We use the same water all day long." The water is tested continually, he said.
Giarrusso doesn't like all regulations, however, singling out corporate filing fees. Not only do you have to pay the fee, he said, but you often require the help of a lawyer, which costs more money.
Still, he said, regulations are not all bad. It's just, he said, "I don't think the state is doing enough to listen" to its citizens.
Giarrusso is a believer in making things and he's worried about the loss of manufacturing in Rhode Island and the U.S. He tells a story about flag pins and the first Iraq War in 1991.
"There was a flag frenzy," he said. Companies in Rhode Island were turning out pins and "mom-and-pop shops would do the painting."
Fast forward to Sept. 11, 2001. Again, a flag frenzy. "We could still get it done. It was harder, but we could still do it."
Today, Giarrusso said, "you can't make it here anymore."
As it often does, Giarrusso's conversation circles back to children.
He worries that kids today, kids his own kids' ages, don't know how things are made. Manufacturing jobs, he said, they teach you: "Wow, these things are made."
Giarrusso, who lives on Lenihan Lane, has four children, three sons and one daughter.
To see Anthony Giarrusso's Patch candidate survey, click here.
To read a profile of independent candidate Kevin McDonough, click here. His candidate survey is here.
To read a profile of Democratic candidate Mark Schwager, click here. His candidate survey is here.
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