PROVIDENCE — Former Cranston mayor Steve Laffey ended his run for president on Friday, eight months after launching a long-shot bid for the Republican nomination.
Laffey, who had not qualified to take the stage during GOP presidential debates, also announced that he is leaving the GOP after more than 40 years as a registered Republican, and will be unaffiliated.
“The Republican Party has become a laughingstock,” Laffey said in a statement. “From a celebrity-driven race for the presidency, to disturbing events in the House of Representatives, it has become painfully apparent that the Republican Party no longer exists. What used to be a Grand Old Party is now simply a placard for anyone to say anything, no matter how hurtful, and no matter how false.”
Laffey, 61, who served a Cranston mayor from 2003 to 2007 before moving to Colorado, had told the Globe he has been living in New Hampshire, trying to break through in the presidential primary by focusing on issues such as Social Security and the Federal Reserve.
But Laffey had raised less than $158,000 for his presidential campaign, did not register in many polls, and he is exiting the race two days after a new poll from Suffolk University, The Boston Globe, and USA TODAY found that likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters overwhelmingly favor former president Donald Trump as their party’s nominee for the 2024 presidential election.
That poll showed Trump at 49.4 percent, followed by Nikki Haley at 18.8 percent, and Ron DeSantis at 10.4 percent, but Laffey was not mentioned.
While most Republican presidential candidates have been reluctant to criticize Trump, Laffey has blasted him.
“Donald Trump is certainly the significant factor in this rapid movement towards authoritarianism and away from the core principles of freedom and economic growth,” Laffey said Friday. “As the first candidate to challenge the dominance of Trump’s influence, I believed that there was a yearning in the Republican heart for a candidate free from his shadow. However, the past eight months have proven me wrong.”
Laffey has said he never voted for Trump. He said that in the 2016 presidential election, he voted for Larry Kotlikoff, the Boston University economics professor who was serving as the chief economic adviser for Laffey’s 2024 bid. And in the 2020 presidential race, Laffey wrote in his own name.
In May, Laffey criticized Trump for mocking writer E. Jean Carroll at a CNN town hall at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire a day after she won a $5 million sexual abuse and defamation award against Trump. He noted that other candidates said nothing.
“From everyone else, there was only silence. Has it not been proven countless times in history that silence is what brings a nation to its knees?” he wrote. “As an evangelical Christian, the fact that this moment did not galvanize all Christians against Trump is a failure so profound that it is unforgivable.”
Laffey ran for US Senate in a primary against then-Republican incumbent Lincoln D. Chafee in 2006, but lost and wrote a book about the experience titled “Primary Mistake: How the Washington Republican Establishment Lost Everything in 2006.″
On Friday, Laffey said his 2007 book was an effort to restore the Republican Party’s direction. “My next book may be aptly named ‘Secondary Mistake: I Came, I Saw, I Wept,’ as it’s become abundantly clear that the chasm within the party and our political system may be beyond mending,” he said.
Laffey said he has been faithful to the Republican Party since he was a teenager.
“From establishing a conservative newspaper at a liberal college, to running for public office as a Republican in Rhode Island — a notoriously Democratic state — to even remaining a Republican after I was attacked by the national Republican Party after running for the US Senate, to writing a book concerning the rejuvenation of the Republican Party, I had always felt that the Republican Party’s principles reflected my own,” he wrote.
But, he said, “What I’ve witnessed since 2015 has made it clear that our political sphere has deviated far from its ideals.”
Laffey said he hopes someone else will “pick up the torch and guide our great nation back to its true essence.” But, he said, “For now, it’s time for me to step aside.”
Laffey said he does not support any of the remaining presidential candidates.
He concluded his statement with a quote from the singer/songwriter Jackson Browne: “It’s a good question to be asking right now: What’ll you put up with, what’ll you allow?”