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Progressives hopeful as big General Assembly wins seem to be happening

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Last night’s Democratic Primary was a huge win for progressives in Rhode Island. With the caveat that none of the races have final figures attached, it is clear that we are looking at a very different General Assembly in 2021.

Mind you, none of the results are final. In all cases mail-in ballots have yet to be tabulated, and anything could happen. The entrenched powers at the State House have a very good mail ballot game, so don’t count anyone out, or in, just yet.

Let’s start with a loss.

Representative Moira Walsh has been a thorn in the side of conservative Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello for four years. She beat back a former Trump supporter rebranded as an endorsed Democrat with the full power of the Speaker’s machine behind him to win her second term but Nathan Biah, also supported by Mattiello’s machine, defeated her last night. Walsh conceded:

Progressive and progressive adjacent legislators who defended their seats include Senator Sam Bell in District 5, and Representatives Terri Cortvriend (District 72), Teresa Tanzi (District 34) and Deborah Ruggiero (District 74).

Bell’s opponent, Jo-Ann Ryan, lost big, taking under 30% of the in person ballots.


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The biggest loss of the night well may be William Conley losing to Cynthia Mendes in Senate District 18. Conley, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee has less than a third of the in person vote. Conley’s work for Marshall, which seeks to convert the Metacomet Golf Course into a mixed use development, seems to have been the deciding factor. He put personal gain over the wishes of his fellow East Providence residents, and seems to have paid a hefty political price.

Also in East Providence, Brianna Henries has crushed incumbent Jose Serodio in House District 64. Serodio really should have filed his campaign disclosures.

Tiara Mack has nearly 60% of the vote in her race to unseat Senator Harold Metts in Senate District 6. Metts, great on issues of race, poverty and housing, is avowedly anti-LGBTQ and reproductive rights. Mack, a queer Black woman, ran strong on these issues.

Alana DiMario did better than two-to-one against Ellen Waxman in Senate District 36. The winner faces off against Republican Trump supporter Doreen Costa in the General Election.

Meghan Kallman took nearly half the vote in a three-way race in Senate District 16. She looks to be the likely winner there.

David Morales has 47% of the vote in a three-way race in House District 7. The incumbent, Daniel McKiernan, a close ally to Speaker Mattiello, would have to really dominate the mail-in ballots to win.

Michelle McGaw appears to have won her primary against John Edwards V in House District 71, an open seat. She has 75% of the vote ahead of mail-in ballots.

Brandon Potter has a big lead over incumbent Christopher Millea in House District 16. Millea would need a lot of help from the mail-in ballots, and being a close ally to the Speaker means he may pull out a victory there. One to watch.

With only 66% of her precincts reporting, Leonela Felix has a commanding lead over incumbent and Mattiello ally Raymond Johnston in House District 61.

One of the more interesting races is the open Senate District 61 seat in Warwick, which has for candidates. Right now, Kendra Anderson, the only woman and the only progressive in the race, has a good lead. Will it hold? Dead last in that race is the candidate endorsed by the Rhode Island Democratic Party, Steven Merolla.

Two other races in Warwick are worth watching. Jennifer Rourke is trailing Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey in Senate District 29 by 176 votes, which seems like a lot to make up with mail ballots. Meanwhile, Jeanine Calkin leads against Mark McKenney in Senate District 30 by 18 votes, making this race way too close to call. Mckenney beat Calkin last term, taking the seat.

Also too close to call is the three way race in Senate District 16, though challenger Jonathan Acosta is very confident that he’s defeated incumbent Elizabeth Crowley in a three-way race.

Another open seat, House District 12 in Providence, is an open seat where Jose Batista has a slight lead over Carlos Cedeno. With a 28 vote separation, mail-in ballots will determine everything.

Two great progressive candidates trailing powerful incumbents are Maggie Kain in Senate District 37 and Lenny Cioe in Senate District 4. Susan Sosnowski leads Kain by 140 votes, a lot to make up in mail-in ballots. Kain is a progressive who often testifies in favor of an increased minimum wage at the State House.

In Senate District 4 Lenny Cioe took 46.4% of the vote in his race against Senate President Dominick Ruggerio. Ruggerio put out a cautious statement that all but declared victory, but Cioe has yet to concede.

Other races:

Senator Maryellen Goodwin seems to have kept her District 1 seat.

Stephen Archambault once again repelled an attempt by progressive Mel DuPont to unseat him in Senate District 22.

John Lombardi in District 8 has certainly repelled an attempt by Darwin Castro to unseat him, with nearly 90% of the vote in.

Ramon Perez may well have just retaken his House District 13 seat from Mario Mendez, who became a staunch ally of Speaker Mattiello in his first term. Perez was also an ally of Mattiello’s, before scandals weakened him. Janice Falconer took only 23.8% of the vote in this three-way race.

Grace Diaz in House District 11 has repelled Laura Perez in District 11, though the margin of victory is smaller.

Stuart Wilson ran a great campaign against Joseph McNamara in House District 19, but it wasn’t enough to beat the entrenched Democrat who actually serves as the Chair of the Democratic Party in Rhode Island. Wilson took around 40% of the vote, with mail ballots yet to be counted.

Patricia Serpa seems to have repelled an attempt to unseat her by progressive Nicholas Delmenico for a second time in House District 27.

Kathy Fogarty handily beat Spencer Dickinson in House District 35.

Miguel Torres failed to unseat Brian Patrick Kennedy in House District 38.

Giuseppe Mattiello seems to have lost to Pamela Carosi in House District 41.

Deborah Fellela has declared victory over Melinda Lopez in House District 43with over 60% of the vote.

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade. atomicsteve@gmail.com