R.I. Senate president fends off challenger, but progressives notch significant wins

In the race for mayor of Cranston, Democrat Maria Bucci will face Republican Kenneth Hopkins in November

Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, center, stood on the Rhode Island Senate rostrum during the 2020 legislative session.
Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, center, stood on the Rhode Island Senate rostrum during the 2020 legislative session.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio beat back a challenge in his district, but progressives knocked off two other Senate leaders and scored victories across Rhode Island in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries, according to final tallies announced Thursday.

In Cranston, former Councilwoman Maria A. Bucci edged Councilman Steven A. Stycos – 49 percent to 47 percent – to win the Democratic mayoral primary, setting up a showdown with Republican Councilman Kenneth J. Hopkins, who beat Council President Michael J. Farina in the GOP primary.

Amid the pandemic, mail ballots accounted for 42.5 percent of the votes cast in the primaries, and voters had to wait two days for the Board of Elections to tally mail ballots and announce final results.


Those tallies showed progressives knocking off incumbent Democrats who often held more conservative views on issues such as abortion rights, gun control, and the environment.

Formed last year, the Rhode Island Political Cooperative backed 10 Senate candidates and seven House candidates. A total of eight of those candidates won primaries, including five in the Senate and three in the House.

“Progressives did great,” said Jeanine Calkin, a co-founder of the Cooperative. “I think it’s a really good indicator of where Democrats in the state are going. We don’t stop here. We will start building for 2022."

Calkin predicted that the progressive victories, coupled with close losses, will influence the legislative agenda at the State House in the coming legislative session. “The results of this election in general really mandates that," she said.

“The big picture is that Rhode Island is a state that is significantly more progressive than its leadership in a lot of ways,” said Georgia Hollister Isman, Rhode Island director for the Working Families Party. “When you give voters the option of candidates who support a living wage, health care for all, and bold action on the climate, they are going to take you up on it.”


The Rhode Island results also reflect a national desire to address injustice amid a reckoning on racial inequities and the impacts of the pandemic, she said.

The Cooperative focused its efforts on the Senate, backing progressive candidates who challenged Ruggerio and members of his leadership team.

Ruggerio, a North Providence Democrat who has been in the Senate since 1984, emerged with 55 percent of the vote, fending off Leonardo A. Cioe Jr. in Senate District 4, which straddles the Providence/North Providence border.

“Every vote has now been counted, and I greatly appreciate the support of my constituents and neighbors reelecting me to the Senate," Ruggerio said in a statement. “We have many challenges ahead of us, and I will work as hard as I can with my colleagues in the Senate and with the House and Governor Raimondo to get Rhode Island moving again.”

Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey, a Warwick Democrat, also held off a challenger, getting 58 percent of the vote to top Jennifer Rourke in the Senate District 29 primary.

But the success of progressives in other Democratic primaries has already prompted at least one senator to say that Ruggerio could soon face a leadership battle.

Senate Finance Chairman William J. Conley Jr., an East Providence Democrat, lost to Cynthia Mendes in a Senate District 18 race, which hinged on her opposition to controversial plans to develop the Metacomet Golf Club and his representation of the golf course’s owner as an attorney. Mendes won with 61.5 percent of the vote.


Also, Senate President Pro Tempore Harold M. Metts – the state’s only Black senator, who has been an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and abortion rights legislation – lost to progressive candidate Tiara T. Mack, a youth organizer for Planned Parenthood who describes herself as a Black, queer woman. Mack won with 60 percent of the vote.

In a high-profile Senate District 5 race, Senator Samuel W. Bell, a progressive Providence Democrat, trounced Jo-Ann Ryan, a Providence city councilwoman who had the support of the Senate leadership. Bell, who received 72 percent of the vote, has said, "There definitely will be a contested leadership battle in the Senate.”

Calkin, of the Political Cooperative, beat Senator Mark P. McKenney, a Warwick Democrat, in the Senate District 30 contest, taking 55 percent of the vote.

And in a three-way Senate District 16 primary, Central Falls Councilman Jonathon Acosta knocked off Senator Elizabeth A. Crowley, a Central Falls Democrat. He received 50 percent of the vote, while Crowley received 40 percent and Leslie Estrada received 10 percent.

On the House side, Nathan W. Biah scored a convincing victory in the District 3 race against Representative Moira J. Walsh, a progressive Democrat who has been an outspoken critic of House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello. He received 65 percent of the vote.

But progressives won other House primaries.


In House District 61, Leonela Felix, who had the support of the Working Families Party, took out Representative Raymond H. Johnston Jr., a Pawtucket Democrat. She received 59 percent of the vote.

In House District 16, Brandon C. Potter knocked off Representative Christopher T. Millea, a Cranston Democrat. Potter received 60 percent of the vote.

In House District 64, Brianna E. Henries beat Representative Joe Serodio, an East Providence Democrat. She received 61.5 percent of the vote.

Rhode Islanders cast 38,553 mail ballots, adding to the 45,075 votes cast at polling places on Tuesday and another 6,967 early in-person “emergency” ballots, according to the secretary of states’s office.

The total of 90,595 votes surpasses the 2016 primary turnout of 69,608 and approaches the 2012 primary turnout of 92,249.

John M. Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, said the state shattered the record for the most mail ballots cast in a September primary, even though it did not send out mail ballot applications to every voter, as it did during the June presidential primaries.

“That demonstrates that a significant percentage of voters wanted to vote by mail during the pandemic,” he said.

Marion said Rhode Islanders are accustomed to getting full vote results on election night, but that was not possible with so many mail ballots cast in these primaries.

While some delay is inevitable, the Board of Elections could announce partial mail ballot results after the polls close, just as it does for in-person voting, and it could require cities and towns to bring the mail ballots placed in drop boxes to the Board of Elections by 10 p.m. election night, rather than by noon the following day, he said.


“There are ways to quicken it up without sacrificing accuracy," Marion said.

Here are the final results reported by the Board of Elections on Thursday:


2nd Congressional District


Representative James R. Langevin: 70 percent

Providence Board of Licenses Chairman Dylan Conley: 30 percent


Robert B. Lancia: 73.5 percent

Donald Frederick Robbio: 26.5 percent

* * *



District 1 (Providence)

Senator Maryellen Goodwin: 79 percent

Evan A. Lemoine: 21 percent

District 4 (North Providence, Providence)

Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio: 55 percent

Leonardo A. Cioe Jr.: 45 percent

District 5 (Providence)

Senator Samuel W. Bell: 72 percent

Providence City Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan: 28 percent

District 6 (Providence)

Tiara T. Mack: 60 percent

Senator Harold M. Metts: 40 percent

District 9 (West Warwick)

John P. Burke: 51 percent

Geoffrey E. Rousselle: 49 percent

District 15 (North Providence, Pawtucket)

Meghan E. Kallman: 61 percent

Herbert P. Weiss: 23 percent

Robert H. Morris Jr.: 16 percent

District 16 (Central Falls, Pawtucket)

Central Falls Councilman Jonathon Acosta: 50 percent

Senator Elizabeth A. Crowley: 40 percent

Leslie Estrada: 10 percent

District 18 (East Providence, Pawtucket)

Cynthia M. Mendes: 61.5 percent

Senate Finance Chairman William J. Conley Jr.: 38.5 percent

District 22 (Johnston, North Providence, Smithfield)

Senator Stephen R. Archambault: 59 percent

Melanie G. DuPont: 41 percent

District 29 (Warwick)

Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey: 58 percent

Jennifer T. Rourke: 42 percent

District 30 (Warwick)

Jeanine Calkin: 55 percent

Senator Mark P. McKenney: 45 percent

District 31 (Warwick)

Kendra Anderson: 31 percent

Warwick City Council President Steve Merolla: 26 percent

Brian S. Dunckley: 23 percent

Michael F. Mita: 20 percent

District 36 (Narragansett, North Kingstown)

Alana DiMario: 75 percent

Ellen S. Waxman: 25 percent

District 37 (New Shoreham, South Kingstown)

Senator V. Susan Sosnowski: 61 percent

Maggie A. Kain: 39 percent


District 31 (Warwick)

Scott M. Zambarano: 81 percent

John P. Silvaggio: 19 percent

* * *



District 3 (Providence)

Nathan W. Biah: 65 percent

Representative Moira J. Walsh: 35 percent

District 7 (Providence)

David Morales: 49 percent

Representative Daniel P. McKiernan: 28 percent

Angel Subervi: 23 percent

District 8 (Providence)

Representative John J. Lombardi: 90 percent

Darwin Castro: 10 percent

District 11 (Providence)

Representative Grace Diaz: 72 percent

Laura Perez: 28 percent

District 12 (Providence)

Jose F. Batista: 56 percent

Carlos Cedeno: 43 percent

District 13 (Johnston, Providence)

Ramon A. Perez: 67 percent

Representative Mario F. Mendez: 21 percent

Janice A. Falconer: 11.5 percent

District 16 (Cranston)

Brandon C. Potter: 60 percent

Representative Christopher T. Millea: 40 percent

District 19 (Cranston, Warwick)

Representative Joseph McNamara, chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party: 62 percent

Stuart A. Wilson: 38 percent

District 27 (Coventry, Warwick)

Representative Patricia A. Serpa: 70 percent

Nicholas E. Delmenico: 30 percent

District 34 (Narragansett, South Kingstown)

Representative Teresa A. Tanzi: 71 percent

Gina M. Giramma: 29 percent

District 35 (South Kingstown)

Representative Kathleen A. Fogarty: 76 percent

Spencer E. Dickinson: 24 percent

District 38 (Hopkinton, Westerly)

Representative Brian Patrick Kennedy: 65 percent

Miguel J. Torres: 35 percent

District 41 (Cranston, Scituate)

Pamela Carosi: 80 percent

Giuseppe Mattiello: 20 percent

District 43 (Johnston)

Representative Deborah A. Fellela: 63 percent

Melinda Lopez: 37 percent

District 61 (Pawtucket)

Leonela Felix: 59 percent

Representative Raymond H. Johnston Jr.: 41 percent

District 64 (East Providence)

Brianna E. Henries: 61.5 percent

Representative Jose R. Serodio: 38.5 percent

District 71 (Little Compton, Portsmouth, Tiverton)

Michelle E. McGaw: 80 percent

John G. Edwards V: 20 percent

District 72 (Middletown, Portsmouth)

Representative Terri-Denise Cortvriend: 81 percent

Christopher T. Semonelli: 19 percent

District 74 (Jamestown)

Representative Deborah L. Ruggiero: 86 percent

Henry F. Lombardi Jr.: 14 percent

Cranston Mayor


Maria A. Bucci: 49 percent

Steven A. Stycos: 47 percent

Adam S. Carbone: 3 percent


Kenneth J. Hopkins: 76.5 percent

Michael J. Farina: 23.5 percent

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.