Rhode Islanders went to the polls yesterday along with the rest of the nation. While the Ocean State dutifully awarded its four electoral votes to Joe Biden, there’s a slew of local races and ballot questions to sort through. Election night went relatively smoothly. The state board of elections was off by the timetable it gave out by only a few hours, with most mail ballot results coming in around 1am. Only Cumberland and Cranston have outstanding mail and emergency ballots to count.
Current returns show voters approved Question 1, the only statewide question on the ballot, to remove Providence Plantations from the official state name. This statewide question first appeared on the ballot around 10 years ago and was struck down by the voters. This time, 52.9% approve the change and 47.1% decline.
As of 2:30am, Speaker Nicholas Mattiello trailed behind challenger Barbara Fenton-Fung by a margin of more than 1,000 votes. Fenton-Fung pulled ahead while in-person votes were totaled, and she maintained her lead as the rest of the numbers trickled in. Mattiello was famously in a similar position in 2016, when his campaign found a box of forgotten mail ballots that put him over the top. A Mattiello loss would mean a big power shakeup for Smith Hill.
Next door in House District 16, Democrat Brandon Potter has a lead over Republican Maryann Lancia. Potter is a progressive and a member of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative. Republican Ken Hopkins is poised to defeat Democrat Maria Bucci to become the next mayor of Cranston. Republicans picked up two citywide seats on the city council while the Democrats only picked up one. Democrats defeated Republicans for all contested seats except in Ward 6. With mail ballots yet to be counted, as of this writing it’s difficult to say who might gain the majority, but right now it looks like Republicans are set to retain it.
Frank Picozzi won an upset victory in Warwick. He beat Mayor Joseph Solomon by 8,000 votes. Solomon has been mayor since taking over from Scott Avedesian, who left to take a state job running RIPTA. Picozzi ran as an independent, is a former chair of the Warwick School Committee and is most well known for his Christmas lights and decoration display every December.
Not everywhere was a bad night for incumbent mayors. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt won against city council vice president Jon Brien, 57.3% to 42.3%. Woonsocket Democrats, meanwhile, had a rough night. The top seven vote getters win a seat on the City Council, and none of their slate placed high enough to garner a seat. Current councilman Alex Kithes will not be returning to the council next term, but his opponent from last year, former city council president Roger Jalette, will be.
Justine Caldwell in House District 36 won a rematch against Anthony Giarusso, her opponent from 2018. Alana DiMario won a three-way race for Senate District 36. Elaine Morgan, Jessica de la Cruz and George Nardone all are returning to Smith Hill. Patricia Morgan also won her old seat back and is headed to the State House again. Justin Price won against Megan Cotter in House District 39.
Central Falls elected Maria Rivera, its first woman mayor in city history. Joe Biden, Jack Reed, James Langevin and David Cicilline, Rhode Island’s usual suspects, all won their races last night. Additional Cranston and Cumberland ballots are forthcoming, and we’ll update our coverage as more information is released.