SMITHFIELD, RI—David Tikoian wants to help the people of his district and state. As the new state senator for district 22 in Rhode Island, he intends to do just that.
Tikoian won his seat after a tight race on Tuesday night, raking in 5,828 votes over his Republican opponent Paul Santucci, who had 5,057 votes. Tikoian’s victory comes just two years after his historic election to the Smithfield Town Council.
Tikoian has always been interested in serving in the General Assembly. In a conversation with the Weekly just prior to his victory in the midterm elections, Tikoian said he never wanted to force a primary in his district out of respect for those in office, making it clear he would run when the time was right. Tikoian says he feels fortunate to be in a position to give back to his community. He recalled the words of Judge Frank Caprio, someone he considers a positive influence in his life: “David, if you can help someone, help them. That’s what we’re here to do – help people.”
Tikoian took that advice to heart from his time as a state trooper to this day. He was also inspired by the late Jack Devine, the highly-regarded Smithfield police chief and Rhode Island State Police captain, who epitomized public service. “Being on the state police and on the governor’s detail, I got a really close-up view of campaigns, legislation, the political process, the highs and lows, and saw it as a conduit to really help people,” Tikoian said. As a former state trooper and police chief, Tikoian demonstrates a strong focus on public safety, supporting legislation that enhances safety in schools and protects first responders.
Tikoian’s agenda begins with bringing back a certain level of decorum in politics. “I’d like to be referred to as a gentleman, somebody who carries himself with a degree of professionalism and respect while dealing with the issues,” he said. Tikoian’s first priority as a state senator is offering some type of tax relief for Rhode Islanders. He pointed to the early elimination of the car tax as a good start, but he said more needs to be done as taxpayers struggle.
Among Tikoian’s legislative priorities is shared municipal services to alleviate strain on municipal budgets, thereby saving taxpayer dollars. He also feels strongly about creating a climate that encourages existing businesses to remain in the state, entices new businesses to relocate to Rhode Island, reduces the tax burden on small businesses and encourages job growth. “I want our graduates to be able to find a job here in Rhode Island, so they can stay here, live here, buy a home,” he stressed, “not say there are no jobs here and have to go elsewhere.” Tikoian has been a strong advocate for teachers and students; he’s approved Smithfield town budgets for adequate school funding, and he intends to continue on the state level to provide a quality education for all students in Rhode Island.
During the campaign season, Tikoian told the Weekly that he visited every house twice, answered all calls and attended every civic event he possibly could with a regret-free approach. “My father always told me, ‘David, you don’t want to be part of the should of club,’” Tikoian recalled.
“My inspiration for me to succeed in public service is that I want to show people that it’s possible,” said Tikoian, a grandson of Armenian Genocide survivors. He says his rise to a career in politics was rooted in humility as he worked hard to become a major in the state police (fourth in command), the North Providence police chief, a Smithfield Town Council member and now a state senator. “Those are powerful things for young Armenians to see and to strive for,” he said.
“I care,” said Tikoian in reference to what is at the heart of his campaign. “I care about our town and our state.” That sentiment was evident in his remarks after winning the state senate race. Speaking to a supportive crowd that included his mother, aunt and brothers at his Smithfield campaign headquarters, Tikoian earnestly thanked the voters, his supporters and volunteers.
“I want to be very clear. Although you voted for David P. Tikoian, you also voted for a return on your investment. You voted for better roads, restored prosperity, improved education, robust economic development, responsible tax relief, government accountability and a brighter future. You voted for a better Smithfield, North Providence and Lincoln, a better District 22 and a better Rhode Island,” he proclaimed. “Thank you for your vote and for putting your faith in me.”