Having already founded and sold Bullhorn, a company that develops employment software, 45-year-old Newport native Barry Hinckley says he is ready to start up a new enterprise: Barry Hinckley for U.S. Senate.
For the past few months, Hinckley — his full name is Benjamin Barrett Hinckley III — has been quietly putting together a Republican campaign to unseat Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in the 2012 election.
Seeing Rhode Island and the rest of the country from his perspective as an entrepreneur, Hinckley says, “It was pretty clear to me that we need a major change in direction to make America again a place where you can pursue the American Dream. The American Dream is different for different people. Some people, their dream is to start a business, for some people it is to get a great job with a great company and stay with it for five years, sometimes 10 years, sometimes a lifetime.”
With the country still struggling to pull itself out of a deep recession, a lot of politicians in and out of office these days are talking about getting government to create jobs. Not Hinckley.
“Government does not create jobs,” he says emphatically. “Americans in the private sector create jobs. Simple. End of story. That’s what made America great. Government has to get out of the way.
So why is a private sector entrepreneur — he says “entrepreneur” is “just a sassy word for a product builder, company builder” — running for the Senate?
“Because I know how to create jobs, I know what goes into making a job, and I know that the government needs to be a whole lot less involved than they are today, both in terms of taxation and regulation. Those two things need to be addressed or America is going to continue to shed jobs to more friendly nations, like we’ve been doing for the last 40 years.”
One problem, Hinckley believes, is that too many elected officials in Washington these days have no private sector experience. “You can’t make the rules on which the largest capitalist machine in the world runs if you’ve never played the game. It’s like asking someone to coach the Red Sox who has never played baseball.”
Hinckley claims “the only way we’re going to get out of the mess we are in is a change in leadership. The people who are there today have caused the problem. Our country is rapidly falling from its perch atop the world and only through leadership change can we get back on track. We can not ask the people who caused the problem to solve the problem.
When he was running his own company, Hinckley said, and a vice-president was messing up a division. “I never called that vice president in to fix the problem. I fired him and brought in somebody new to solve the problem.” That’s what needs to happen now in Washington, he said.
“We need term limits; that’s a big part of the problem,” Hinckley contends. “This thing is so weighted toward incumbents, it’s ridiculous. Instead of public service, it’s become self-service and many of these politicians act with one thing in mind — getting re-elected because the job is so good they want to keep it forever. If you remove the temptation, they’ll lead. That’s what we need now is leaders. We don’t have ‘em.”
On issues such as jobs, the economy and the mess in Washington, Hinckley speaks like a mainstream Republican — he calls himself “a true conservative, a libertarian) but, like many Rhode Island Republicans before him, he takes a more moderate line on social issues.
Hinckley says he is “pro-choice,” but he also says that, as the father of a daughter (11-year-old Sasha, he also has a 4-year-old son, Hudson) “I would always want to know. If my daughter were ever considering it, I would always want to be notified. For minors there has to be parental involvement.
“I believe in a woman’s right to determine (whether to have an abortion), but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s a daunting, daunting prospect. It’s not something I take lightly at all.”
On civil unions and same-sex marriage, Hinckly says, “First and foremost, I believe gay people are American. Everyone I know has a gay friend or a gay family member. So as an American, they enjoy equal protection under the constitution. That means if you and I are gay, we can enter into a civil contract as Americans and that’s what I support.
“I will always adamantly defend gay rights, it’s a very important thing,” he adds. “I think the next civil rights movement is equal rights for gays.
For now, Hinckley seems to have the Republican field all to himself.
GOP Chairman Ken McKay praises Hinckley as “a great guy, he’s got the drive, he’s got the smarts.”
McKay says he doesn’t think Hinckley motivated by ego or political ambition. “He’s a believer. He really thinks the government is too big and spends too much.”
Asked about other Republicans who may be mulling a challenge to Whitehouse, McKay said, “I have heard no other names.”
The political rumor mill has suggested that former Gov. Donald Carcieri might be interested, but he has made no public statements to that effect and McKay says Carcieri hasn’t told him his intentions one way or the other and he is not doing any of things — raising money, putting together a campaign staff — that a serious candidate would be doing at this time.
Hinckley told ABC6’s Buddy Cianci that Carcieri told him he would not run, but that could not be confirmed.
As of his June 30 campaign finance report to the Federal Elections Commission, Hinckley’s campaign warchest had brought in $155,190, including a $50,000 loan of his personal funds, and had spent $96,929. But he says in the last month fundraising has caught fire and his team has started to come together. He estimates he will need $3 million to beat Whitehouse and with $5 million he could beat him badly. He says he expects Whitehouse to spend about $7 million on the race.