Editorial & Opinion

Ruggerio Opponent: Senate President is gerrymandering his re-election

“The maps released by the redistricting commission are gerrymandered in favor of those still in power, like my opponent in the Senate District 4 election in 2020, corporate Democrat Dominick Ruggerio,” writes Lenny Cioe.
Photo for Ruggerio Opponent: Senate President is gerrymandering his re-election

Published on December 5, 2021
By Lenny Cioe

On Thursday the Rhode Island Redistricting Commission released their draft maps of the political boundaries for the State Senate and State House of Representatives. These maps – the outcome of months of feedback sessions, public input, and claims of “integrity” – will define our political boundaries, and how political power operates, in our state for the next decade. Making sure our boundaries fairly represent communities and facilitate competitive elections is key to making sure we have a strong democracy that represents people, not power, in our state.

[The Special Commission on Reapportionment will hold the first of a series of hearings around the state focusing on the initial plans for the layout of the House and Senate districts for the purpose of garnering public input. The first of these meetings is scheduled for Monday, December 6 at 6pm in the auditorium of Smithfield High School, 90 Pleasant View Ave. in Smithfield. Masks are required inside the building. The meeting will air live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. The meetings will also be live streamed at http://rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx.]

I hoped that the commission would be independent and fair to all Rhode Islanders, keeping our communities together. I spoke at a number of meetings held by the commission. I tried to believe that the elected officials in our state who chose most of the people on the commission – such as my opponent in the 2020 District 4 Senate election, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio – would honor their oaths of office and stand for the interests of every Rhode Islander.

But that’s not the case. The maps released by the redistricting commission are gerrymandered in favor of those still in power, like my opponent in the Senate District 4 election in 2020, corporate Democrat Dominick Ruggerio. In 2020, Ruggerio and I had a close race, only decided by a few hundred votes. Now, with the help of consultants like “the gerrymanderer” Kimball Brace, Ruggerio has gerrymandered his district to help him win in our upcoming rematch.

In 2020 I beat Ruggerio handily in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Providence, beating him by a two to one margin in the precincts surrounding Providence College. In the draft maps released by the commission, Ruggerio – with the rubber stamp of his personally chosen commission – has split up those Providence communities, removing them from the rest of the district in his effort to make my campaign against him non-competitive. Instead, he pushed District 4 into Smithfield, splitting Providence communities from North Providence. Like I wrote about in an op-ed on redistricting in August, Ruggerio is “redrawing the lines of the court while the ball is in mid-air.” He’s ready to do anything to keep in power.

And it’s not only in my district. Progressive civic leaders and working class candidates across the state woke up Friday to a changed political landscape that is benefiting corporate Democratic incumbents who are attempting to challenge the status quo. The corporate Democrats controlled by lobbyist money (Ruggerio has already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his reelection effort from corporate lobbyists), will do anything they can, even if it amounts to legalized corruption, to keep in power. If you want to read more about how Ruggerio’s conservative Democrat gerrymandering could impact politics across the state, check out this article in the College Hill Independent.

Ruggerio’s efforts to control the commission and redraw his district to benefit him shows that he is stone cold afraid of me, and will do anything in his power to rig the election before it even begins.

But we don’t have to roll over and just let those in power define our politics in Rhode Island. The redistricting maps are not yet final. On Monday, December 7, the redistricting commission is having a hearing to receive feedback on their draft maps at Smithfield High School. I’m going to this meeting, and I hope you’ll join me, to make clear to the commission that acting as a rubber stamp for one of the most powerful politicians in Rhode Island is not acceptable, especially if it splits up our communities.

The Senate President is afraid of me, a registered nurse who will never stop fighting, even if the maps are drawn against me. In Ruggerio’s eyes, those neighborhoods are merely political pawns, but I know them for the thriving communities that they are, and I won’t stop working for the community that touched me in 2020.

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Lenny Cioe, North Providence, 2020 Candidate for State Senate District 4 and Registered Nurse

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