Dem RI atty general candidate Fernandez dies at 46

December 19, 2010

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PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Joe Fernandez, a former Providence city solicitor who ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general this year, died Saturday. He was 46.

Fernandez died at The Miriam Hospital following a short illness, said Dan Herkert, who managed his campaign. Herkert said he did not have details on the nature of Fernandez's illness.

Fernandez, a Democrat, worked in New York City and Providence as a business lawyer and litigator before being appointed city solicitor in 2003 by Mayor David Cicilline. He left last year to run for office.

A Pennsylvania native whose parents immigrated from the Philippines, Fernandez portrayed himself as an outsider making his first run for office during his campaign, saying he wasn't beholden to anyone.

"I've not grown up in the state's political system," he said earlier this year.

Although he led his opponents in fundraising in the three-way primary, Fernandez lost to state Rep. Peter Kilmartin, who went on to win the November general election and will replace Attorney General Patrick Lynch.

"Joe Fernandez was a dedicated and professional public servant," said Brett Broesder, a spokesman for Kilmartin.

Herkert said he met Fernandez through a professional network of consultants and friends and joined his campaign two weeks later, adding that Fernandez impressed him as someone "that has no ego and is doing it for all the right reasons, because he actually wants to accomplish something."

Although Herkert said the two of them never specifically discussed Fernandez's future after his primary loss, "there was no question he wanted to stay active in public life."

Cicilline called Fernandez "an outstanding lawyer with a sharp legal mind."

"Guided by a strong moral compass and deep commitment to public service, Joe led by example and earned the great respect of his colleagues and peers as a strong leader," Cicilline said in a statement.

His successor, Mayor-elect Angel Taveras, posted a statement on his Facebook page calling Fernandez's death a "very sad day for all of Rhode Island."

"Joe Fernandez was a great talent and incredibly generous human being who has been taken from us too soon," Taveras said. "In our ten years of friendship I saw firsthand his thoughtful leadership and compassionate intelligence in action."

Fernandez is a Brown University alumnus and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991. In 2008, he co-chaired Harvard classmate Barack Obama's presidential campaign in Rhode Island.

He is survived by his wife and two children.