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Politics & Elections

The race for Senate District 31 just got more interesting



“Having strong, smart and competent women leaders not only benefits the General Assembly, but benefits our district and all of Rhode Island,” said candidate Kendra Anderson, pictured.

Warwick City Council President Steve Merolla is running for the State Senate District 31 seat in Warwick/Cranston that Senate Judiciary Chair Erin Lynch Prata is vacating this fall, completely changing the dynamics of the race.

Lynch Prata was being challenged for her seat by Kendra Anderson, a progressive, who is now in a race for an open seat. Anderson is a member of the progressive Rhode Island Political Cooperative, but her campaign was divisive. Many saw Lynch Prata’s efforts to pass the Reproductive Privacy Act in 2019, which essentially codified the protections of Roe v Wade into state law, as an action worthy of support. Lynch Prata has also been instrumental in passing a comprehensive parenting rights act in the Senate, which has yet to pass the House.

Merolla changes the dynamics of the race, and his challenger in the Democratic Primary, Kendra Anderson, notes that in a recent press release, saying, “When I first announced my campaign to be the next Senator for District 31 I was very excited about the fact that two strong and capable women were running for the same position.

“Having strong, smart and competent women leaders not only benefits the General Assembly, but benefits our district and all of Rhode Island. Senator Erin Lynch Prata was and will continue to be that kind of leader whether for the remainder of her tenure as a Senator or in her possible new role as a Rhode Island Supreme Court judge. She worked hand in hand with the current leadership to accomplish their goals and I appreciate her role in codifying Roe v Wade protections in RI. Her record of achievement speaks for itself.”

Anderson calls Merolla a “longtime establishment politician” and suggests that Merolla is not the candidate to challenge the status quo and bring “needed change to Smith Hill.”

While Anderson was leading the environmental group Climate Action Rhode Island and showing up for rallies at the State House and elsewhere in Rhode Island to codify Roe v Wade into law, Merolla was leading the Warwick City Council.

Merolla described himself in a statement to The Public’s Radio‘s Ian Donnis as, “someone who runs a law firm and understands the challenges of meeting a payroll and keeping a small business running.”

He added that he sees the “immediate challenge facing Rhode Island government” as “putting together a recovery plan for our state that puts their needs first.”

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In her press release, Anderson courted those who previously supported Lynch Prata because of her work on the Reproductive Privacy Act, saying, “I understand that some longtime supporters may be disheartened about the news of Lynch Prata leaving the Senate to pursue a new way of public service. I want to assure you that I have heard your voices and have stood side by side with you during our fight for a woman’s right to have autonomy over her own body.”

Another member of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, Zachary Colón, is running for Merolla’s City Council seat.

About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.