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They’re Running!: Your guide to local elections

COVID has pushed almost all other news out of the limelight, but 2020 is still an election year, and even though the national parties’ presidential primaries wrapped up months ago, the American experiment is still crackling on our local level. With most of the major candidates announced and wrapping up their nomination papers, we’ve put together an election guide to help you keep track.

Cranston, Rhode Island’s own second city, has a number of important or notable races this year. Mayor Allan Fung is term-limited out of the mayoral office, and both parties have contested primaries. Fung has endorsed city council member Ken Hopkins, but City Council President Michael Farina has racked up the local party’s endorsements and has a rather “extravagant” campaign strategy. On the Democrats’ side, longtime council member Steven Stycos is squaring off against former councilwoman Maria Bucci. Republicans have controlled both the mayor’s office and city council since 2016. With six ward seats and three citywide seats, it’s up in the air who will control the council.

Speaker Nick Mattiello is running for re-election for his seat in House District 15. This year’s challenger is Cranston First Lady Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, wife of outgoing mayor Allan Fung. Mattiello is possibly having the worst year of anyone in RI politics, being the target of at least two grand jury investigations. Right to Life has publicly supported Fenton-Fung, as pro-life organizations feel stung after the Speaker let abortion rights get codified into state law. Also taking on a member of the GA leadership is Lenny Cioe. Cioe, a graduate of RIC’s nursing program, is taking on Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio.

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Alex Kithes, the upstart crow of last year’s Woonsocket snap election, is running for re-elect. He’s joined the Rhode Island Political Cooperative and is running on a slate with three other candidates for Woonsocket City Council. Kithes has frequently clashed with the conservative majority of the council on issues of social and economic justice. Others running on this slate for city council are Charmaine Webster, Marlene Guay and Vaughan Miller. Fifteen people total have declared their intent to run for city council, including an informalish slate of four incumbent councillors: James Cournoyer, Roger Jalette, Daniel Gendron, John Ward and Denise Sierra. Woonsocket’s elections are a little strange for Rhody; they have non-partisan primaries. Essentially, every seat on their council is city. A primary election will whittle down the candidates to 14 in September, who will square off in November on the general election. High vote getters become counselors.

Woonsocket also has a mayoral election happening this year. Incumbent Lisa Baldelli-Hunt will face City Council Vice President Jon Brien. 

The Rhode Island Political Co-operative is the latest progressive organization in RI, and they’ve put out a lineup of 24 candidates for city council or General Assembly offices. The group is chaired by Jeanine Calkin (running to reclaim her seat in SD 5 Warwick), Jennifer Rourke (running in SD 29, Warwick), and Matt Brown (not running for anything — just vibin’, we guess). Their candidates include incumbents like Rep. Moira Walsh and new candidates running for office, such as Jessica Vega running for Central Falls City Council.

There’s been a series of high-profile retirements this year, as candidates decline to run for their seats again. Erin Lynch Prata, instead of running for office in state Senate, has decided to apply for an upcoming Supreme Court vacancy. James Sheean is retiring from his North Kingstown senate seat, with former rep Doreen Costa and progressive Alana DiMario both running to replace him. 

Donna Nesselbrush in Pawtucket has declined to run for office again, with the race in the Democrat primary coming down to city councillor Meghan Kallman, longtime city employee and city hall fixture Herb Weiss and Robert Morris Jr. Also retiring from elected office is Senate District 9’s Adam Satchell. The Democratic primary for that office alone has four people running, with only one Republican declared: Michael Morin in Woonsocket’s House District 49. Former candidate for mayor Stephen Lima faces Vincent Bono, an independent. 

In East Greenwich, Anthony Giarrusso is running to reclaim his seat (House District 30) from Justine Caldwell, who narrowly defeated him in 2018 with 51.1% of the vote. Patricia Morgan is also aiming to reclaim her former seat in West Warwick’s House District 36. Morgan did not run in 2018, opting to run for governor instead, and will face Democrat James Jackson in the fall.

State Senator Sam Bell (District 5, Providence) is running for re-election this fall. His opponent in the primary is Jo Ann Ryan, who has represented Ward 5 on the Providence City Council since 2014.

And on the statewide scene, Dylan Conley is primarying 10-term Congressman James Langevin. Conley is chairman of the Providence Board of Licenses, assistant solicitor for the city of East Providence. His father is state Senator William Conley, chairman of the Senate finance committee. It’s the first challenge from within his own party that Langevin has faced in almost 20 years. The Democratic nominee for Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional district will face Republican Bob Lancia in the fall.

There are literally hundreds of elected offices up for grabs this election cycle. Got one you think you we should cover? Email robsmithwrites@gmail.com with any tips. Signal available upon request.

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