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Election 2020: The races to watch in Rhode Island

Mayoral races in Cranston and Warwick, the state name change referendum, and more

Voters at the Hope Highlands Middle School polling site showed their driver's licenses for identification before voting.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Happy Tuesday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I’m proud to live in the state with the best “I voted” sticker in the country. If you haven’t already, please make sure you get one for yourself today. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 34,120 confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday, after adding 1,150 new cases since Friday. The most recent overall daily test-positive rate was 5.1 percent, and the first-time positive rate was 18 percent. The state announced nine more deaths, bringing the total to 1,210. There were 170 people in the hospital.


It’s finally here. Welcome to Election Day.

The polls have already opened (and more than 305,000 Rhode Islanders voted early), so there’s a strong chance that you already know the main themes of the day. But here’s a quick overview of things to keep an eye on. You can follow along at Bostonglobe.com/RhodeIsland when the results start rolling in.

The (possible) Rhode Island takeover of America

This won’t happen overnight, but consider: If Joe Biden is elected president, there’s a chance that Governor Gina Raimondo will join his administration – possibly as the first female treasury secretary. If the US Senate is controlled by Democrats, US Senator Jack Reed is in line to chair the Armed Services Committee, and there’s an outside chance of US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse taking over the Judiciary Committee. On the House side, US Representative David Cicilline is already running for assistant speaker, and US Representative James Langevin is in line to become the No. 2 on the Armed Services Committee. Langevin might also have a chance to join a Biden administration, especially if the job of national cyber director is created.


Question 1: Changing Rhode Island’s name

If you ask Twitter, the removal of “Providence Plantations” from Rhode Island’s official name is a lock. Outside of social media, the issue is far less clear. This is a question that was voted down overwhelmingly 10 years ago, and the campaign pushing the name change this year wasn’t exactly a well-oiled machine. But there are a few signs giving supporters some hope: The mood of the state and the country is far different than it was in 2010, and record turnout to vote against President Trump could lead to more support for Question 1. A big unanswered question: If it goes down, will the state continue removing “plantations” from its official documents anyway?

House District 15

There’s not much more that can be written about this race. On one hand, it’s possible that Republican Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung has emerged as the ideal candidate in this pro-Trump district to take out the Democratic incumbent. On the other hand, maybe House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has Trump-level sticky support that will remain with him no matter what – and it’s just enough to put him over the top. If Mattiello goes down, we know a race to replace him as speaker will begin immediately. If he wins, it would be difficult to imagine that that he’ll be giving up the gavel. Keep an eye on how much the well-organized SEIU opposition to Mattiello hurts him this time around.

Cranston mayor


Let’s play a little game of best case/worst case scenarios for mayoral candidates Ken Hopkins and Maria Bucci, who have been running the most-civil campaigns ever. Best case for Hopkins: Mayor Allan Fung’s endorsement is worth its weight in gold and there are just enough Democrats out there who are willing to split the ticket with Hopkins and Biden. Worst case: He was a little too complacent following that blowout victory in the Republican primary and didn’t do enough to expand his base. Best case for Bucci: Democrats, especially Latinos, turn out in massive numbers and stick with their party up and down the ticket. Worst case: She wakes up on Wednesday having come up just short and regrets not doing more to highlight the differences between her and Hopkins.

Rhode Island & the US Senate

Senator Reed probably didn’t need to film that slightly awkward commercial – he’s going to win running away. But there are two major Rhode Island connections to the broader battle for control of the Senate. In Arizona, Republican Senator Martha McSally happens to be from Warwick. Nearly every poll has her trailing Democrat Mark Kelly by a wide margin. In Maine, longtime Republican Senator Susan Collins is in the fight of her political career against Democrat Sara Gideon, who is from East Greenwich.

The other mayoral races

Warwick Mayor Joseph Solomon and Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt are viewed as favorites to win re-election, although Solomon lost the endorsement of his hometown paper to independent Frank Picozzi and Baldelli-Hunt has a credible challenger in former state Representative Jon Brien. In Central Falls, Council President Maria Rivera is the heavy favorite to beat Joseph Moran III to become the next mayor.Intriguing House and Senate racesHere’s a handful of matchups worth watching: Democratic Representative Justine Caldwell faces Republican Antonio Giarusso in House District 30. In the open seat for House District 42, Democrat Edward Cardillo Jr. takes on Republican Frank Ricci. House District 46 has a great three-way race between incumbent Representative John Lyle Jr., an independent, Democrat Mary Ann Shallcross Smith and Republican John Cullen. On the Senate side, the Senate District 36 matchup between Republican Doreen Costa, Democrat Alana DiMario, and independent Matthew Mannix appears to have a lot of buzz. In Warwick, Democrat Kendra Anderson won a crowded primary in District 31, and now faces Republican Scott Zambarano.



⚓ No matter what happens in today’s election, both the Rhode Island House and Senate are going to have women running for the top leadership posts in each chamber. Ed Fitzpatrick talked to the candidates. Read more.

Amanda Milkovits reports that the vitriol of the 2020 presidential cycle and the near-constant rumble of civil unrest have led to an all-hands-on-deck approach to ensuring that Election Day runs smoothly and the days after it are peaceful. Read more.

⚓ Will reliably Democratic Johnston remain reliably with President Trump? The Democrat who wants to be the town’s next mayor says he does believe Trump with defeat Joe Biden in the town, even as Biden is likely to win easily statewide. Read more.


⚓ The Globe has reporters all over the country covering the presidential race, so I asked them what they’re watching for today. Read more.

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Opinion: The Globe’s editorial board writes that new US Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett should recuse herself from any election-related challenge that reaches the high court. Read more.

Election: When will we know a winner in each state? Here’s a helpful guide. Read more.

Politics: My colleague Mark Arsenault looks at several “what if” scenarios in today’s election. Read more.

Sports: Because we all need one non-political story for the day. Bill Belichick is being remarkably candid about why the Patriots are struggling this season. Read more.

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Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ If you want to track turnout in Rhode Island, the secretary of state’s office will update this page every hour.

⚓ Remember, if you haven’t registered to vote or you know someone who hasn’t signed up, Rhode Island allows for same-day registration for the presidential election. Here’s a list of polling places.

⚓ Want to avoid television tonight? Brown University is hosting a virtual watch party beginning at 7 p.m. that will be stacked with interesting panelists.

⚓ Do you ❤️ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him @danmcgowan.