Should Warwick taxpayers subsidize Ray McKay's Senate bid?

Apr 29, 2014

Raymond McKay’s Republican U.S. Senate candidacy seems to depend on his legal battle with Warwick city officials over whether he should be allowed to keep his city job while he runs for office.

Local media outlets have much of McKay’s alleged ``right’’ to run for any office he chooses. Steve Brown of the R.I. Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union told the Providence Journal that the Warwick city ordinance that bars classified municipal employees from running for office is ``overly broad’’ and too restrictive.

The headline on the story stated `Is seeking office a city worker’s right in Warwick?

McKay, a longtime conservative gadfly in the R.I. GOP, and head of the R.I. Republican Assembly, is a telecommunications and network manager for the city. He has mounted a legal challenge to a 1962 city ordinance that bars civil service employees from running for elective office while they are employed by the taxpayers.

McKay asserts that the ordinance is unconstitutional because it interferes with his right to seek elective office. But sometimes logic and facts are stubborn things. What they show in this case is that Warwick officials have been reasonable in trying to accommodate McKay’s political ambitions and his decision to seek office.

Also, the overarching   theme here is that the city is not prohibiting McKay from running for office. The ordinance merely states that you can run for office, but if you do so, the taxpayers are under no obligation to subsidize your campaign by paying your salary.

Warwick officials have said that they offered McKay an unpaid leave of absence to run for Senate, which seems reasonable.

And McKay surely knew when he took this job what were the working conditions and restrictions. Nobody in Warwick government or any other agency of Rhode Island government has told McKay he can’t run for Senate.

Rhode Island’s Republican Party surely needs a candidate to challenge incumbent Democrat Sen. Jack Reed, a popular and respected politician who holds one of the nation’s safest  Democratic Party Senate seats.

But in McKay, the state GOP is already saying it cannot get a competitive challenger willing to take on Reed. McKay wants to keep his job while running for office, so he won’t be campaigning full-time against Reed.

You can’t really blame McKay for milking this ordinance for all the free media coverage he can garner. His ideas haven’t received much attention, so his challenge to the Warwick ordinance is pretty much the only element in his nascent candidacy that has drawn media attention.

As for Reed, well, some Rhode Islanders will remember that this liberal Democrat gave up his job, a lucrative one, as a banking lawyer at the Edwards & Angell law firm to run for U.S. House back in 1990.