Should elected officials be submitting bills that affect elections they are currently running in?

Kenneth Marshall
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Representative Kenneth Marshall (Democrat, District 68, Bristol) introduced H5015 today, legislation that “would allow the board of canvassers of the town of Bristol to combine two or more voting districts for the representative District 68 special election in March, 2019.”

Marshall is running in that special election.

Marshall declined to run for re-election last year, paving the way for progressive Democrat Laufton Ascencao to be elected. After winning his election, Ascencao admitted to forging documents during his campaign, and ultimately declined to be sworn in as Representative.

Now Marshall is running for the seat he currently holds in a Special Election as an Independent, not a Democrat. Also running are Democrats John Hanley, Richard Ruggiero and June Speakman, as well as Libertarian William Hunt and Independent James McCanna III.

In an email, Marshall told me that he filed the legislation at the request of Bristol Town Clerk Lou Cirillo. Cirillo’s request, said Marshall, “is not unprecedented for a Special Election and due to the expected smaller turnout for the race and the costs and logistic problems associated with schools being two of the Polling places, the Bristol Town Clerk has requested to consolidate Polling places based upon those circumstances.

“Bristol has four Polling places for this District while Warren only has one which is an available Church for both dates. Bristol on the other hand has two that happen to be Schools that will be open on both 2/5 for the Primary and 3/5 for the General election.”

Marshall added, “It is a request put forth by our Town Clerk in Bristol due to the unusual and costly circumstances caused by the former Rep elect Laufton Ascencao resignation for his premeditated attempt at campaign finance fraud.”

Cirillo confirmed that he emailed all five of Bristol’s State legislators with the request to submit the legislation, including Marshall, Representative Susan Donovan (Democrat, District 69, Bristol), and Senators Cynthia Armour Coyne (Democrat, District 32, Barrington), Walter Felag (Democrat, District 10, Tiverton, Warren) and James Seveney (Democrat, District 11, Bristol, Portsmouth).

Donovan says that she was never asked by Marshall to sign onto the legislation.

Asked if Marshall should be the person submitting the legislation, given that he is actively participating in the election, Cirillo replied, “I don’t see any reason why not. There’s nothing improper about it. It’s a relatively small election event.

“To me, if they’re the State Rep, from our community, then they have a right to do it.”

“The optics of having Marshall submit the bill for an election he’s a part of are poor at best,” said John Marion of Common Cause Rhode Island. Marion stressed that there seems to be no ethics violation, just bad optics.

Larry Berman, communications director for the Speaker of the House disagrees. “Representative Marshall put in this bill at the request of the town clerk, who runs the Board of Canvassers,” said Berman. “As a Representative from the town, he was doing his job in submitting the bill that was requested of him.”


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About Steve Ahlquist 996 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade.Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.atomicsteve@gmail.com

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