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Rhode Island political news: June 2022

Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Dan McKee delivers his State of the State address to lawmakers and guests in the House Chamber at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Providence, R.I.Stew Milne/Associated Press

July 11, 2022

Senator Booker endorses Morgenthau for Congress

US Senator Cory Booker on Monday endorsed Sarah Morgenthau in the Democratic primary for Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District seat.

Morgenthau worked on Booker’s successful 2006 mayoral campaign in Newark.

“I have known Sarah for years,” Booker said in a statement. “She had faith in me at a time few others did and came to work for my mayoral campaign in Newark, which was no easy thing.”

Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, said he’s asking the voters in Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District to have the same faith in Morgenthau that she had in him.

“Sarah is hardworking, compassionate, and knows how to get things done in Washington,” he said. “She’s the best candidate to keep this seat under Democratic control come November.”

Morgenthau, who served in President Joe Biden’s administration as deputy assistant secretary for the National Travel and Tourism Office, said she was thankful for Booker’s support.

“Cory is a leader in our party and has represented throughout his career what every public servant should aspire to be,” she said. “His honesty, integrity, and accountability are beyond reproach and are traits I hope to embody as the first Democratic congresswoman to represent Rhode Island. I look forward to working with him and his colleagues in the House and Senate to deliver results for the people of the Ocean State.”

Morgenthau is running in a Democratic primary against Seth Magaziner, Omar Bah, Joy Fox, David Segal, Spencer Dickinson, and Donald Keith. The winner will likely face Republican Allan Fung. They are vying for the seat that Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin is vacating.

July 7, 2022

R.I. Board of Elections refers audit of Providence City Council candidate to AG

The Rhode Island Board of Elections announced Thursday that it has referred the results of an audit of a Providence City Council Ward 9 candidate’s campaign to the state attorney general’s office “for their consideration and possible prosecution.”

The campaign of Gerard C. Catala failed to file four campaign finance reports during the 2018 election, failed to file campaign bank account statements between 2018 and 2020, and falsely reported in seven other campaign finance reports that there were no contributions or expenditures, the Board of Elections said.

The Board of Elections also said thousands of dollars in deposits were disclosed on campaign bank account statements but not in campaign finance reports; that $7,176.22 in bank debits were expended from the campaign bank account but not disclosed on campaign finance reports; and more than $4,000 in campaign expenditures were paid from Catala’s personal funds and not those available in his campaign account.

The Board of Elections took up the audit, which is now available online, at an executive session on June 28.

Catala told the board in response that his delay in filing campaign finance reports “was due to his desire to submit complete and accurate campaign finance reports that wouldn’t need to be later amended.”

Catala, running as an independent, lost to Carmen Castillo in Ward 9 by 51 percentage points in 2018. He has filed a declaration of intent to run for office in 2022 for the same seat, this time as a Democrat.

July 7, 2022

R.I. Libertarian Party endorses West Warwick man for governor

The Libertarian Party of Rhode Island endorsed Elijah Gizzarelli, a West Warwick resident who does home construction and renovation for an organization that helps fellow veterans, for governor.

Gizzarelli, 35, also filed paperwork to make the Libertarian Party a recognized political party in Rhode Island; he’ll need to get 5 percent of the vote to do so.

“We’re excited to announce that Rhode Island will have a valid third choice on the ballot this November,” Shawn Mizener, the party’s vice chair, said in a statement. “The Libertarian Party is the third largest political party in the United States, and with this campaign we will solidify LPRI’s formal status as a political party here in the Ocean State.”

Gizzarelli is one of five people to submit paperwork to the state to lay the groundwork for an independent run for governor.

The Democrats endorsed incumbent Dan McKee at their convention. He faces a September primary against opponents including Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, former secretary of state Matt Brown and health care advocate Luis Daniel Muñoz.

On the Republican side, the party endorsed businesswoman Ashley Kalus. Four other Republicans have filed forms signaling their intent to run for governor.

Candidates still have to collect signatures to get on the ballot.

— By Brian Amaral

July 5, 2022

Moquin drops out of 2nd Congressional District race

Democratic candidate Cameron Moquin dropped out of Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District race on Tuesday and threw his support behind former state Representative David A. Segal.

Moquin, a rescue lieutenant in the Providence Fire Department, said he decided to withdraw from the race “after a great deal of consideration and reflection, and in light of the fact that RI Congressional District 2 is now a battleground.”

A recent Suffolk University-Boston Globe poll showed Republican Allan W. Fung leads each of his potential Democratic rivals in the race to replace Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin, giving the GOP its best chance to flip a seat that has been held by Democrats since 1991.

“My campaign is simply not prepared to enter a battle that risks losing a House seat to Republicans,” Moquin said.

He said he is backing Segal because “he supports the Democratic values that drove me to run for this office to begin with.” Also, Segal’s campaign “has the infrastructure, finances and energy needed to be successful against the Republican opponent,” he said.

Moquin, 39, who lives in East Providence, said he will continue to serve as a lieutenant on Providence Rescue 5, and he said, “I look forward to new opportunities that will allow me to promote and engage in solving the issues I care so much about.”

With Moquin’s departure, the Democratic primary in the 2nd Congressional District now includes Segal, Seth Magaziner, Joy Fox, Sarah E. Morgenthau, Omar Bah, Spencer Dickinson, and Donald Keith.

June 28, 2022

Donnie Anderson challenging Goodwin for R.I. Senate seat

The Rev. Donnie Anderson on Monday declared her candidacy for state Senate in District 1 in Providence.

“I am running because the general assembly has acted intentionally to deprive lower income women access to reproductive healthcare,” Anderson wrote in a Facebook post.

Anderson is challenging Senator Maryellen Goodwin in the Democratic primary.

“I am challenging the senate whip so it’s going to be a very interesting race,” Anderson wrote on Facebook.

Anderson is the former executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, and serves as pastor at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in New Bedford, Massachusetts, according to her LinkedIn page.

June 28, 2022

Laborers district council endorses Pryor

The Rhode Island Laborers’ District Council announced Tuesday it is endorsing former Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor in the Rhode Island general treasurer’s race.

“The RILDC is proud to endorse Stefan Pryor, as I have seen first-hand his tireless commitment to economic development,” said Michael Sabitoni, RILDC business manager/secretary-treasurer, in a news release. “He created thousands of local union construction jobs and his record is second to none. He is running a serious campaign on issues impacting all of Rhode Island, and his record demonstrates that he is the type of leader we need as general treasurer.”

“Throughout his career, [Pryor] has proven his dedication to issues such as economic development and the creation of jobs, and I know he will continue to advocate for a stronger and better Rhode Island,” said Armand E. Sabitoni, Laborers’ International Union of North America general secretary-treasurer and New England regional manager. “Not only for our union brothers and sisters, but for all Rhode Islanders.”

Pryor is running in a Democratic primary against former Central Falls mayor James A. Diossa.

June 26, 2022

Senator Gillibrand endorses Morgenthau

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, on Sunday announced she is endorsing former Biden administration official Sarah E. Morgenthau in Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District race.

“I have known Sarah for years and am confident she’s the best candidate to win this seat and deliver for the people of Rhode Island,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “In the aftermath of Roe v. Wade being overturned, and amidst constant attacks on reproductive rights, it is more important than ever that we elect pro-choice women to Congress. We need more strong women like Sarah Morgenthau in Congress, and we need more leaders who know how to get things done.”

Morgenthau thanked Gillibrand for the endorsement, saying, “In Congress, I look forward to working with my colleagues in both houses, including Senator Gillibrand, to pass meaningful paid family leave, secure fair wages for working families, and fight for reproductive freedoms.”

Morgenthau is running in a Democratic primary against Seth Magaziner, David A. Segal, Omar Bah, Joy Fox, and Cameron Moquin for the 2nd Congressional District seat that Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin is vacating at the end of this year.

June 26, 2022

Senate President Ruggerio endorses McKee and Matos

Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio on Sunday announced he is endorsing Governor Daniel J. McKee and Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos in their Democratic primaries.

Ruggerio, a North Providence Democrat, made the announcement as the state Democratic Party prepares to hold its annual convention and endorse candidates at 6:15 p.m. Sunday at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center, in Cranston.

“Governor Dan McKee and Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos have been effective partners with the Senate over the past year and a half,” Ruggerio said in a statement, “and they have helped to deliver results that will benefit the people and small businesses of our state now and into the future.”

Ruggerio noted that McKee, the former lieutenant governor, took over as governor in March 2021, during the pandemic, when former governor Gina M. Raimondo was named US secretary of commerce. “He rose to meet the challenge,” he said. “He has helped make Rhode Island one of the most vaccinated states in the nation.”

McKee was “an invaluable partner” as the General Assembly made investments in housing, childcare, and human services, Ruggerio said. And he said, “We worked collaboratively to ensure Rhode Islanders struggling under the weight of inflation saw immediate, tangible relief by eliminating the car tax, providing child tax credits, expanding low-income property tax breaks, and much more.”

Ruggerio said Matos made housing her main focus and “helped our state make historic progress.” He said she “regularly brings together experts, stakeholders, and the public to find solutions to affordable housing at all levels, and her work has contributed to the state investing hundreds of millions more in housing.”

McKee is running in a Democratic primary against Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, former CVS executive Helena B. Foulkes, former secretary of state Matt Brown, and Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz. Matos is running in a Democratic primary against Senator Cynthia Mendes and Representative Deborah L. Ruggiero.

June 25, 2022

Speaker Shekarchi backs Magaziner for Congress

House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi on Saturday said he is backing General Treasurer Seth Magaziner in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District seat that Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin is vacating.

“I am strongly supporting Seth Magaziner to fight against the radical views in Washington that are clearly out of step with Rhode Islanders,” said Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat. “Having worked well with Seth as our general treasurer for the past eight years, I can attest to his intelligence, character, and strength that will serve us so well in Congress.”

Shekarchi said he wants to see Magaziner join the other Democratic members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation – Senator Jack Reed, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and Representative David N. Cicilline – to “carry forth the Democratic values that are so critical to our future as a state and a nation.”

In the Democratic primary, Magaziner is facing Omar Bah, Joy Fox, Cameron Moquin, Sarah Morgenthau, and David A. Segal. The Democratic nominee will square off against the winner of a Republican primary between Allan Fung and Robert Lancia.

On Friday, Shekarchi announced he is backing Governor Daniel J. McKee in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

“We have an excellent working relationship, which resulted in a great budget for all Rhode Islanders this year,” he said in a statement. “Our budget provided targeted tax relief that eliminated the car tax a year ahead of schedule, increased tax credits for seniors and disabled, and included a tax credit to working families with children.”

Shekarchi said he and McKee share the goal of increasing affordable housing, as shown by the $250 million inclued in the state budget for housing.

“I appreciate his leadership and ability to collaborate with the legislature on such key issues as the landmark Act on Climate bill to protect our precious environment, as well as making key investments in education, health care, and assisting our small businesses,” he said.

McKee is running against Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, former CVS executive Helena B. Foulkes, former secretary of state Matt Brown, and Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz in the Democratic primary. The Republicans are poised to nominate Ashley Kalus, although Rey Alberto Herrera has also opened a campaign account to run.

Shekarchi’s announcements come as the state Democratic Party prepares to make endorsements at its annual convention on Sunday evening in Cranston.

June 25, 2022

Jeann Lugo ends campaign for state Senate District 29

Hours after being placed on paid administrative leave for assaulting his political opponent during an abortion rights rally in Providence on June 24, Providence Police Officer Jeann Lugo ended his campaign for the state Senate District 29 seat.

“I will not be running for any office this fall,” he tweeted at 1:52 p.m. Seconds later, his Twitter account was deactivated, though his campaign website remained active.

A screenshot of the tweet posted by Jeann Lugo on Saturday, June 25, 2022, suspending his campaign for State Senate District 29.Screenshot via Twitter

In response to questions from the Globe, Lugo on Saturday did not deny repeatedly punching rally organizer and R.I. Political Cooperative Jennifer Rourke as she tried to deescalate an unrelated conflict during the rally Friday night.

“As an officer that swore to protect and serve our communities, I, unfortunately, saw myself in a situation that no individual should see themselves in,” he said in an email to the Globe. “I stepped in to protect someone that a group of agitators was attacking.”

The incident was caught on video during the rally.

“The PPD is criminally investigating the off duty behavior of a Providence Police Officer last evening at a protest where a female was assaulted,” Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré tweeted from the official Providence Public Safety account. “The Officer was placed on administrative leave with pay this morning pending a criminal investigation and administrative review. SMP”

June 23, 2022

RI Political Coop announces 5 Assembly candidates

The Rhode Island Political Cooperative on Thursday announced that five candidates have joined the progressive group’s slate of General Assembly candidates.

“This is a truly special group of people,” Rhode Island Political Cooperative co-chair Jennifer Rourke said in a statement. “These candidates are all deeply informed by their lived experiences and steadfast dedication to the fight for a better Rhode Island. I am so honored to stand alongside these community leaders as we fight to enact universal healthcare, tackle the housing affordability crisis, and pass a Green New Deal.”

Kinverly Dicupe, an Afro-Latina organizer and co-chair of Providence Democratic Socialists of America, is running for House District 62. Dicupe is focusing on universal healthcare, public housing, or justice for the working class

Eric Asselin, a public school teacher and lifelong Rhode Islander, is running for Senate District 26. Asselin is focusing on universal basic income, workers’ rights, and justice issues.

Robin Xiong, a lifelong Rhode Islander and Hmong-American womxn who worked for five years in Rhode Island public schools as an educator and restorative justice counselor, is running for State Senate District 3. Xiong is focusing on environmental advocacy and is pursuing a master’s degree in energy and climate policy. Robin

Lisa Bernard, a mental health worker who grew up experiencing housing insecurity, mental health struggles, and addiction, is running for Senate District 9. Bernard is focusing on a living wage and healthcare for all.

Marlene Guay, an organizer in Woonsocket, is running for House District 51. Guay is focusing on equity, education, and justice.

June 21, 2022

Lauria announces run for Coyne’s Senate seat

Pam Lauria, chair of the Barrington Democratic Town Committee, will run for the state Senate District 32 seat that Senator Cynthia A. Coyne is vacating.

Coyne, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has represented District 32, which includes all of Barrington and parts of East Providence and Bristol, since 2015.

Lauria thanked Coyne for serving the community and said Coyne had encouraged her to run for the Senate seat. “After careful consideration and discussion with my family, I am ready to run,” she said in a statement. “I know that I can bring my experience in healthcare, advocacy, and community service to the critical policy discussions in the Senate while collaborating on real solutions.”

Coyne said Lauria has been “an incredible leader” for the state and town Democratic Party and “an important voice from the advocacy community on issues including reproductive rights, gun safety, and education.” She said Lauria “will represent the district well.”

Lauria is a primary care nurse practitioner at Coastal Medical, with 25 years’ experience, and she is a trustee on Coastal’s board. She is a volunteer and advocate for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and she is member of Barrington’s housing board of trustees. She has the led the Barrington Democratic Town Committee since 2017.

“Working on policies that impact all Rhode Islanders’ health and wellness will be high among my priorities,” Lauria said. “Affordable/equitable/accessible healthcare, common sense laws to reduce gun violence, affordable housing, supporting children educationally and emotionally, and making Rhode Island affordable for all are essential.”

June 21, 2022

Chappell will run in Senate District 11

Democrat Matt Chappell on Tuesday announced he will run for the state Senate District 11 seat now held by Senator James A. Seveney, a Portsmouth Democrat who is retiring.

Matt Chappell, a Democratic candidate in state Senate District 11Handout

Seveney has represented District 11, which includes Portsmouth and parts of Bristol, since 2017. Chappell, a fourth-generation Portsmouth resident, practices law at his family’s law firm, Chappell & Chappell, and serves as a prosecutor for the towns of Tiverton and Portsmouth.

“I’m running for state Senate to bring the East Bay experience and the voice of our community to the State House,” he said in a statement. “In recent years, Senator Seveney has been a sincere and effective voice on the issues that matter most to East Bay residents. As Senator Seveney did during his tenure, I hope to provide accessible representation, strong government oversight, and be a leading voice advocating for all members of this community.”

As a prosecutor, he has handled hundreds of criminal matters, seeing the strengths and weaknesses of the state’s criminal justice system. He said he hopes to build on the Justice Reinvestment Initiatives enacted by the General Assembly to ensure those impacted by mental health disorders receive the aid and treatment needed.

“I see the real-world implications of Rhode Island’s penal code every day in the courtroom,” Chappell said. “Sadly, many of the individuals that I interact with are not there because they chose a life of crime, but rather because of underlying mental health issues. We can and must do a better job of identifying and treating these behaviors as a society.”

If elected, Chappell said he would introduce legislation “to preempt any US Supreme Court ruling designed to undermine the rights of protected classes.” He noted that in 2019 the General Assembly codified Roe v. Wade into state law, aiming to protect abortion rights if the US Supreme Court overturns the landmark ruling.

“Women and the LGBTQ+ community are under attack all across this country,” Chappell said. “With all the advances we have made for women and the LGBTQ+ community in Rhode Island, we must be vigilant to make sure we defend and build upon this progress. I will always stand with women and with the LGBTQ+ community.”

Chappell graduated from Portsmouth High School in 2009 and went on to attend Plymouth State University and the Roger Williams University School of Law.

June 21, 2022

DuPont will run for Senate in District 22

Melanie G. DuPont, a co-founder of the progressive Rhode Island Political Cooperative, on Tuesday announced she will run for the state Senate District 22 seat now held by Senator Stephen R. Archambault, a Smithfield Democrat.

Melanie G. DuPont, a Smithfield Democrat running for the state Senate District 22 seat now held by Senator Stephen R. Archambault.Handout

DuPont also challenged Archambault in a Democratic primary in 2020, when Archambault received 59.1 percent of the vote to her 40.9 percent. District 22 includes Smithfield and parts of Lincoln and North Providence.

DuPont, a Smithfield resident, has been a technical writer for 28 years and politically active since 2016.

“Voters shouldn’t have to keep a vigilant watch over politicians to make sure they aren’t harming us,” she said in a statement. “We deserve a General Assembly full of people we can trust. Instead, we’re dodging the fresh landmines my opponent has been laying since 2012.”

DuPont said, “We need a break, and we deserve peace. I’m running for state Senate to protect Rhode Islanders’ health and safety and be part of a new government that works for us and not for exploitative corporations.”

In 2017, DuPont worked with LGBTQ Action RI to ban conversion therapy. In 2019, she fought side by side with The Womxn Project to pass the Reproductive Privacy Act, which aims to protect abortion rights in Rhode Island in case the US Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, she sewed and distributed masks, dropped off food and supplies to community members, and connected people with rent relief. She is a former secretary of the Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus.

June 20, 2022

Guckian will run for lieutenant governor

Aaron Guckian, an East Greenwich Republican who was an adviser to former GOP Governor Donald L. Carcieri, plans to run for lieutenant governor.

Guckian will formally launch his campaign outside of the Brewed Awakenings Coffee House in Warwick at 2 p.m. Tuesday. He will be joined by Ashley Kalus, a Republican candidate for governor, and former Cranston mayor Allan W. Fung, a Republican candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

Aaron Guckian, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Rhode Island.Handout

For the past five years, Guckian has worked as a development officer for the Rhode Island Foundation. He previously was a vice president at Bank Newport and an officer with The Washington Trust Company.

“As a lifelong Rhode Islander, there is nothing I care more deeply about than making our state the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” Guckian said. “From the grocery store to the gas pump, Rhode Islanders are getting crushed by soaring inflation, and I am committed to getting this state back on track. Smith Hill needs a strong, vocal leader who will serve as an advocate for people who have been previously left behind by politicians.”

If elected, Guckian plans to focus on the statutory duties of the office: small business, seniors, and emergency management. He also plans to create a help center to assist Rhode Islanders in navigating the complexities of state government, respond to their concerns, and connect them to programs and services.

A graduate of East Greenwich High School, Guckian received a bachelor’s degree in music and education from Connecticut College, a master of arts degree in music from Rhode Island College, and a master of business administration degree from Johnson and Wales University.

Guckian will face a Republican primary against Paul E. Pence Jr., who lost the 2018 lieutenant governor’s race to now-Governor Daniel J. McKee. Republican Jeann Lugo announced on Monday that he will run for state Senate rather than lieutenant governor.

June 20, 2022

Lugo will run for Senate, not lieutenant governor

Republican Jeann Lugo is dropping out of the lieutenant governor’s race to run for the state Senate seat now held by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey, a Warwick Democrat.

Lugo, a Providence police officer who lives in Warwick, issued a statement Monday criticizing Senate Democrats for employing “an unusual tactic” last week to move a bill that limits magazine capacity to 10 rounds.

A bill appeared to be stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which deadlocked in a 6-to-6 vote. But when the full Senate met soon afterward, McCaffrey moved to take up the House version of the bill for immediate consideration, and the Senate passed it by a vote of 25 to 11, sending it to Governor Daniel J. McKee, who has vowed to sign it into law.

“The Democrat-controlled Legislature have used unusual tactics to circumvent the legislation-making process because they believe they are not accountable to voters in Rhode Island,” Lugo said. “Instead of promoting sound solutions to make our state more competitive by reducing unnecessary and burdensome regulations, Democrats find creative ways to capitulate to special interests that ultimately end up hurting Rhode Islanders.”

Lugo said, “I cannot sit back and watch Democrats in the Senate continue to pass legislation that does not address the constituents’ immediate needs in District 29.”

The bill to limit magazine capacity had the support of Rhode Island State Police Colonel Darnell S. Weaver and the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association. “As public safety officials, we are committed to safeguarding everyone’s rights while also supporting the need for change that can help alleviate the preventable gun violence that devastates families and communities,” said Narragansett Police Chief Sean Corrigan, the president of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association.

June 20, 2022

Senator Coyne won’t seek re-election

State Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Cynthia A. Coyne, a Barrington Democrat, announced Monday that she will not seek re-election in Senate District 32, which includes Barrington and parts of Bristol and East Providence.

“I have decided that the time is right to retire from the Senate, but I am not retiring from public service,” Coyne said in a statement. “I will continue to be very active and engaged in the community, as I always have been, and look forward to the next chapter in this journey.”

Senator Cynthia A. Coyne, a Barrington Democrat.Handout

Coyne was first elected to the Senate in November 2014. She previously spent four years on the Barrington Town Council. From 1985 to 2006, she was a trooper with the Rhode Island State Police, rising to the rank of lieutenant.

In her first term, she worked to enact legislation to protect domestic violence victims by removing firearms from felony abusers. More recently, she championed new laws prohibiting untraceable ghost guns and 3-D printed guns, and she was the lead Senate sponsor of legislation that just passed the General Assembly to limit firearm magazine capacity to 10 rounds.

“I have always tried to build bridges, not barriers,” Coyne said. “The issues that come before the Judiciary Committee are some of the most emotional and divisive issues to be considered by the Senate. I tried to find common ground and start from a place of respect to build consensus whenever we could. We were able to get a lot accomplished, and I am appreciative of everyone I have had the opportunity to work with over the years.”

She authored legislation requiring public reporting on all child deaths or near fatalities, as well legislation requiring background checks for people working or volunteering with children. She pushed for reforms to the state’s human trafficking laws that she said will enable law enforcement to prevent trafficking and apprehend its perpetrators more effectively.

“In the immediate future, I look forward to spending more quality time with family and friends,” Coyne said. “I don’t know what my future may hold after that, but I know that I will always be engaged and eager to serve the community in some capacity. I thank my colleagues in the Senate, and, most of all, my constituents, for all their support over the years.”

June 20, 2022

Yang endorses Muñoz for governor

Andrew Yang, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and 2021 New York City mayoral candidate, on Monday announced he is endorsing Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz for governor of Rhode Island.

Yang, who graduated from Brown University in 1996, has founded the Forward Party, a political action committee that aims to form a new political party with the motto “Not Left, not Right, Forward.”

“Luis Daniel Muñoz is a leader of his generation and a champion of opportunity and dignity for all,” Yang said in a statement. “He will prioritize pragmatic changes while standing up for policies like ranked choice voting and nonpartisan primaries so all voices can be heard. Luis is just what Rhode Island needs, a leader who will bring people together and solve problems through action.”

Blair Walsingham, the Forward Party political director, said Muñoz “has a proven track record of dedication to equity and dignity for all.”

“He stands out as a leader of not just change but progress,” Walsingham said. “It takes a lot to run for office, and Luis maximizes his platform by speaking from a place of hard-hitting truths and brings sophisticated solutions to the table. A leader like Luis Daniel Muñoz would enact meaningful and lasting improvements to Rhode Island.”

Muñoz, who ran as an unaffiliated candidate for governor in 2018 before running as a Democrat this year, said he was grateful for the support.

“It takes vision, political courage, and an open heart to change the status quo,” Muñoz said. “It is truly an honor to walk beside those who have the courage to lift the veil of what was, in order to co-create what better country and state we can be for the next seven generations.”

In the Democratic primary, Muñoz is running against Governor Daniel J. McKee, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, former secretary of state Matt Brown, and former CVS executive Helena B. Foulkes. Ashley Kalus is running for governor as a Republican.

June 17, 2022

Pryor steps down as Commerce secretary

Days after a fellow candidate for state treasurer, former Central Falls mayor James A. Diossa, criticized him for “recklessly” clinging to power, Stefan Pryor has stepped down as Rhode Island’s commerce secretary, effective June 21.

“Serving as the state’s first Commerce Secretary has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I am grateful to you, Governor McKee, as well as Governor Raimondo for the opportunity,” Pryor said in a letter sent to Governor Dan McKee on Friday.

In the letter, Pryor seemed to address Diossa’s accusations about holding on to his Commerce position after indicating he would run for Treasurer.

“Per your request, Governor, and at the request of Commerce board members, I have stayed a couple weeks longer than I originally anticipated in order to offer further assistance on some key fronts,” Pryor wrote. “Of course, as discussed, I remain available to you and the Commerce team if I can be helpful to you going forward.”

The Governor praised Pryor for his long tenure as Commerce secretary.

“Stefan has provided strong leadership to the state of Rhode Island over his seven plus years as Rhode Island’s Secretary of Commerce. I’m grateful for his work and his partnership especially as we’ve emerged from the pandemic with strength and economic momentum,” McKee said in a statement. “I’ve also appreciated that he delayed his departure to assist with key economic development issues including the Tidewater project. I thank him for his service and wish him well.”

June 15, 2022

Tracy will run for House seat that Cassar is leaving

Mark A. Tracy, an entrepreneur and public health advocate, on Wednesday declared his candidacy for the House seat that is being vacated by Representative Liana M. Cassar, a Barrington Democrat.

Cassar, who took office in 2019, announced last week that she won’t seek re-election in House District 66, which includes parts of Barrington and East Providence.

Tracy, a Democrat, ran for the House District 4 seat in Providence in 2018 but lost a primary to now-Representative Rebecca Kislak. He moved to Barrington three years ago.

Tracy is co-founder of Earthacre, a Providence startup that works on carbon sequestration, and he is the former CEO of Cloud Agronomics.

He is the board chair of the Rhode Island Public Health Institute, which during his tenure opened the Open Door Health Clinic, the state’s first dedicated LGBTQ+ health care clinic. The institute has also led the fight, along with the NOURISH RI coalition, to increase supplemental nutrition assistance programs to about 150,000 recipients.

Tracy is secretary of the board of Hope Health, which runs the largest nonprofit hospice, palliative, and visiting nurse service in the state. And he recently completed Ironman Florida to raise money for Hope Health’s Camp BraveHeart, a free grief camp for children who have lost a parent or sibling on Hope Health’s hospice service.

“As a father of two children in Barrington public schools, I will fight at the State House to ensure our students are getting the resources they deserve,” Tracy said in a statement. “We need to overcome the divisiness that has prevented us from thoughtful solutions – and we deserve representation that will focus on improving our quality of life.”

He said his priorities include support for schools, affordable housing, protecting senior citizens from rising costs, and replacing the East Bay bike path bridges.

“Having lost my father when I was 9, I was raised by a single mother who depended on our Social Security checks to make ends meet,” Tracy said. “I worry about our most vulnerable community members getting by on a fixed income in this environment.”

June 14, 2022

Democracy for America endorses LaFortune

Democracy for America is endorsing Providence City Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune for mayor of Providence.

Founded by Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor and presidential candidate, Democracy for America is an advocacy organization with 1,500 members in Providence, 5,700 members in Rhode Island, and more than 1 million members nationwide.

“DFA endorses candidates who act courageously to improve their communities and bring diverse voices into the mainstream,” senior electoral manager Christine Senteno said in a statement. “Councilwoman LaFortune aligns perfectly with our values.”

She said LaFortune’s “lived experience as a Haitian immigrant and Afro-Latina and her City Council track record have proven she places progressive issues at the center of her policy decisions.”

The statement said LaFortune wants to lead a Providence “that gets the basics like plowing the snow, picking up the trash, and filling the potholes right, but one that also makes the critical investments in our young people and in our neighborhoods to keep our city safe, healthy, and thriving.”

LaFortune is running against for state administration director Brett Smiley and former deputy secretary of state Gonzalo Cuervo in a Democratic mayoral primary.

June 14, 2022

Senator Cano running for re-election

State Senator Sandra Cano, a Pawtucket Democrat, on Monday announced she will seek re-election in Senate District 8.

Cano was first elected to the Senate in April 2017. She is the first Latina chair of the Senate Education Committee, and she serves on the Senate Finance Committee and the Rhode Island Black and Latino Caucus.

“As the Senator for District 8, I am proud of all that we have accomplished,” Cano said. “By listening to my constituents and collaborating with my colleagues, we have realized major gains for our city and state. The job, however, is not complete. I am confident that I can continue to bring a strong voice to the State House on behalf of District 8 and all of Pawtucket.”

Cano works as the City of Pawtucket’s commerce director. As a state legislator, she played an integral role in the tax incremental financing legislation that is being used for the Tidewater Landing project, which includes a proposed soccer stadium in Pawtucket. The city and the developer recently requested that the Commerce Corporation board add another $30 million in tax-increment financing through the state for that project.

As a legislator, Cano also championed the Child Care is Essential Act, which expands eligibility for the Child Care Assistance Program through increased income thresholds and caps on co-payments. It also sets new benchmarks for childcare reimbursement rates to bring Rhode Island into alignment with national standards.

Cano also introduced and successfully passed the Early Educator Investment Act, which directs the state Children’s Cabinet to set a target wage scale for early educators and identify strategies for increasing compensation.

Cano lives on Pullen Avenue with her fiancé, former Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa, a Democrat who is now running for state treasurer.

June 13, 2022

City and town council leaders form group

Smithfield Town Council President Suzy Alba and Vice President Sean Kilduff on Monday announced the formation of the Rhode Island Coalition of City & Town Council Leaders.

“I have been thinking for some time that a group like this would be beneficial to share ideas, best practices, and resources across communities as well as provide an opportunity for town and city council leaders to get to know each other,” Alba said.

Since being elected in 2012, she hasn’t had a chance to meet many of town council members from other parts of the state, she said. “So much can be learned from each other and our neighboring communities that can benefit all of our residents and the entire state,” she said.

The coalition plans to have online meetings for the presidents and vice presidents of each city and town council four times per year – in June, September, January, April. And in the future, cities and towns might be able to host the group for in-person meetings.

Alba said the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns has offered to help facilitate meetings and discussions for the new group. Future topics will include how best to support small businesses, encourage economic growth, and municipal budgets.

The first meeting will be held via Zoom at 7 p.m. June 27.

At that first meeting, city and town council leaders are invited to share their ideas for shared services and brainstorm on areas where communities can collaborate, Kilduff said. “I know we’re very proud of our recent partnership with the North Providence and Johnston on a brand-new tri-town animal shelter,” he said, “and we hope examples like this can help other communities work together.”

June 12, 2022

Rep. Newberry will seek re-election

Former House Minority Leader Brian C. Newberry, a North Smithfield Republican, will run for re-election in House District 48, which includes most of North Smithfield and part of Burrillville.

“I maintain, as I always have, that we do not have a taxing problem in this state, but a spending problem,” Newberry said. “I have always opposed tax increases and supported attempts to reign in bloated government spending. I have fought to eliminate the abuse-ridden legislative grant program and been a consistent advocate against growth in government generally and in attempting to get my legislative colleagues to adopt a different perspective on many issues.”

Newberry was first elected in November 2008. He served as House minority leader from May 2011 through November 2016.

“I am very concerned that the cascade of federal money, which itself has already sparked the worst inflationary crisis in this country since the Carter administration, will be used to paper over our structural problems and, worse, lead to new spending initiatives the State will be unable to support once the federal funds inevitably dry up, with harmful long term implications,” he said. “Now more than ever, we need elected officials who advocate for policies aimed at economic growth, job creation and lowering the cost of living and doing business in Rhode Island.”

June 9, 2022

House Judiciary Committee hears bill to criminalize sexual contact between authority figures and underage teens

The scandal in North Kingstown of a coach’s “naked fat tests” for teen boys came up repeatedly Thursday as advocates and legislators urged support for legislation that would make it illegal for adults in positions of authority to have sexual contact with underage teens.

State Representative Julie A. Casimiro, the lead sponsor whose district includes North Kingstown, said in a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee that her bill was necessary to protect children.

Under current state law, someone who has sex with a child under 14 years old is guilty of felony first-degree child molestation sexual assault. However, the law does not address adults who have sexual contact, or penetration, with minors who over 14 and under 18.

Casimiro and the sponsors of companion legislation in the Senate have said their bills would “close the loophole.” Anyone in a position of authority who has sexual contact, such as touching, or penetration with a minor over 14 and under 18 years old would be guilty of third-degree sexual assault — a conviction with a penalty of five years in prison.

The bills allow an exception if both parties are between 16 and 20 years old, and no more than 30 months apart in age.

Hannah Stern, of Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU, said she was concerned that age gap wasn’t large enough and could still criminalize consensual relationships between young people. Committee member State Representative Jason Knight, a lawyer who represents Barrington and Warren, also questioned whether the bills would catch the “edge” cases.

However, committee member and co-sponsor Representative Carol Hagan McEntee, a lawyer representing South Kingstown, said the legislation was intended to go after those with power.

“I do think it’s time we get to these bad behaviors — teacher and student, coaches and students, priests and altar boys — they are in a positions with the authority that makes [minors] think this is what you should do,” McEntee said. “There is so much hanging over that person, because they believe in the person. They believe the priest is second to God.”

The bill hasn’t moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee since it was heard in April. Last month, two of the sponsors, Senate Minority Whip Jessica de la Cruz, a Republican representing Burrillville, Glocester, and North Smithfield, and Senator Frank Lombardi, a Cranston Democrat, called a press conference to urge their fellow legislators to act.

June 8, 2022

Harris backs Cuervo for Providence mayor

Providence Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris on Wednesday endorsed Gonzalo Cuervo for mayor of Providence.

“I have known Gonzalo for many years,” Harris said. “He has the proven experience to be an effective mayor and lead the fight for social and economic justice: more affordable housing, safer streets, and greater opportunities for our youth.”

Harris is the third member of the Providence City Council to endorse Cuervo, along with council members Rachel Miller and Katherine Kerwin.

Cuervo is running against Providence City Council member Nirva LaFortune and former state administration director Brett Smiley in the Democratic mayoral primary.

Harris said Cuervo has been a strong advocate and ally for working families in Providence for decades, serving as a community leader, a small business owner, and within city and state government. “He has the experience, vision, and strong community ties to create greater economic opportunities for our youth, families, and neighborhoods,” she said.

Harris was first elected in 2014 to represent Ward 11, which includes South Providence, the West End, and Elmwood neighborhoods. She previously worked as the lead community organizer for Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), building grassroots support for local projects promoting economic and social justice.

Cuervo said, “I am proud to earn Mary Kay’s endorsement and support, and will work closely with her to build a prosperous and equitable future for Providence where every child and every family in every neighborhood has the opportunity and resources to succeed.”

June 7, 2022

Janey endorses LaFortune for Providence mayor

Kim Janey, Boston’s first Black mayor, on Tuesday endorsed Providence City Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune, who would be Providence’s first Black mayor.

“I know that Councilwoman LaFortune is ready to meet the challenges facing Providence,” Janey said in a statement. “Nirva has the experience – both professional and lived experience – to hit the ground running on Day One and begin delivering results for the people of Providence.”

LaFortune thanked Janey for her “steadfast commitment to justice and public service,” saying, “Even more, thank you for your commitment to helping women get elected to lead our respective communities. The people of Providence deserve a leader who will go to work for them everyday, and I look forward to being that mayor and learning from leaders like you.”

Janey served as president of the Boston City Council and became mayor when President Joe Biden chose former Mayor Martin J. Walsh to be his labor secretary. But she lost a bid for a full term as mayor.

LaFortune is running against former deputy secretary of state Gonzalo Cuervo and former state administration director Brett Smiley in the Democratic mayoral primary.

June 7, 2022

Unions endorse Amore for secretary of state

The Rhode Island AFL-CIO and other union groups representing more than 100,000 people are endorsing Representative Gregg Amore for secretary of state.

Amore, an East Providence Democrat, also received the backing of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 328, RI Laborers Local 271, Rhode Island Building Trades Association, Amalgamated Transit Union, Rhode Island State Association of Firefighters, and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2323.

Earlier union endorsements include the National Education Association Rhode Island and International Brotherhood of Utility Workers Local 310.

“As a public school civics teacher, Gregg understands the magnitude of the current moment we are living through - and will defend our democracy and our right to vote at all costs, while keeping our elections safe and secure, Rhode Island AFL-CIO President George Nee said in a statement. “We believe in Gregg’s vision to make voting easier and more accessible for all Rhode Islanders, because everyone deserves to have their voice heard at the ballot box.”

Frank Flynn, president of the RI Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, said Amore’s work as a teacher, coach, and state legislator and his knowledge of government, civics, and finance qualify him for the secretary of state’s role. “He brings a keen intellect, strong work ethic, and collaborative nature to this role, which will greatly benefit the State of Rhode Island,” he said.

Amore is expected to face Republican Pat V. Cortellessa, a Cranston resident who received 32.5 percent of the vote when he lost to Democratic Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea in 2018.

June 6, 2022

Representative Cassar won’t seek re-election

Representative Liana M. Cassar, a Barrington Democrat, on Monday announced she won’t seek re-election.

First elected in November 2018, Cassar announced in 2020 that she would run for House speaker after former House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello lost his district race. Cassar, who is biracial, would have been not only the first female House speaker but the first Black female speaker.

But Cassar abandoned the bid and abstained as the House voted to elect K. Joseph Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, as House speaker.

On Monday, Cassar issued a statement, saying she will not seek re-election to represent District 66 in the House of Representatives.

“I am grateful to have had the honor and privilege to represent the constituents of Barrington and Riverside in the General Assembly since 2019,” she said. “However, the demanding legislative schedule does not leave me able to fully honor my commitments to the House, along with my commitments to my career and my family.”

Representative Liana Cassar, a Barrington DemocratCourtesy of Liana Cassar

Cassar said her two terms provided her with experience in shaping government and policy. “I have been inspired by the many thoughtful and hard-working people inside and outside of the State House who come together in our lively experiment to meet those challenges and keep our state moving forward,” she said.

Cassar said she will miss working with her colleagues, advocates, and members of the public. But, she said, “Be assured that I will remain a strong voice advocating for my community as well as for justice and equity in Rhode Island.”

June 6, 2022

RI Working Families Party backing Cruz, Picheco

The Rhode Island Working Families Party is supporting candidates in two House races that it has identified as “key priorities” for the progressive political group.

The organization is backing Cherie Cruz, who is running for the House District 58 seat now held by Representative Carlos E. Tobon, a Pawtucket Democrat who was the subject of as WPRI-Channel 12 investigation into his business dealings and financial problems.

And it is endorsing Giona Picheco, who is running for the House District 14 seat now held by Representative Charlene M. Lima, a Cranston Democrat who serves as deputy House speaker.

The group says it is trying to elect “Working Families Party champions’' to lead on issues like healthcare, child care, housing, criminal justice reform, and workers’ rights. Both endorsed candidates are challenging more conservative Democratic incumbents, the group said.

“Giona and Cherie are exactly the kind of candidates we always look for at the Working Families Party: authentic community leaders who have been organizing in their communities to improve the lives of working people,” said Zack Mezera, the group’s organizing director. “These two candidates are the Working Families Party champions Rhode Islanders need in state government, and we’ll fight hard to elect them.”

June 3, 2022

Kalus names Gillissie campaign manager

Ashley Kalus, a Republican candidate for governor, on Friday named Evan Gillissie as her campaign manager.

Gillissie, a native of Cranston, worked for former Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung during the 2014 and 2016 election cycles. Fung, a Republican, is now running for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

Gillissie has about a decade of campaign and political experience. He has worked on Capitol Hill, in the executive branch, and in the private sector, focusing on issues such as consumer protection, financial technology, and energy.

“I’m excited by the experience and enthusiasm Evan will bring to our campaign,” Kalus said. “His previous work in Rhode Island will be invaluable as we fight to better the lives of struggling families and make the Ocean State the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”

May 31, 2022

Solomon endorses Smiley for Providence mayor

Former Providence City Council President Michael Solomon, who dropped out of the mayoral race in May, endorsed Brett Smiley for Providence mayor on Tuesday.

“I’ve known Brett for years, and I know that he has what it takes to be the best mayor for our city,” Solomon said in a statement.

The next mayor will need to know how to work with the City Council, the staff, and the community, and how to manage a government with more than 1,000 employees, he said.

“Based upon his experience, Brett is the man for the job,” Solomon said. “He will be ready to lead on day one. I appreciate my supporters and the team we have built and look forward to working with Brett and his team towards a victory this fall.”

Smiley will face City Council member Nirva LaFortune and former deputy secretary of state Gonzalo Cuervo in a Democratic primary for mayor.

Solomon, Smiley, and others made Tuesday’s announcement at Fargnoli Park in the city’s Elmhurst neighborhood.

“I am proud to have the support of Michael who I’ve worked with and gotten to know very well over the years,” Smiley said. “I greatly respect him for his service to the City of Providence and look forward to working with him on the campaign.”

May 28, 2022

Rhode Island AFL-CIO backing three gun bills

The school shooting in Texas and the racist shooting in Buffalo have prompted the Rhode Island AFL-CIO to back three pieces of gun legislation now before the General Assembly.

“Enough is enough,” the union organization said. “As a labor movement, as workers, as parents, and as men and women of good conscience, we must act.”

The group is throwing its support behind a bill to limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds, a bill to ban assault-style weapons, and a bill to raise the age to buy guns from 18 to 21.

“These measures will not heal the fractures in our hearts caused by more tragedies involving guns in this country, but it is a start,” said George Nee, president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO. “We have long advocated for workplace safety, for the simple right to go to work with the simple expectation of being able to get home safely.”

“Ending the scourge of gun violence is a labor issue,” said Patrick Crowley, secretary-treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, “and as the voice for working men and women in Rhode Island, we must speak as loud as possible when our brothers and sisters, and the children in their care or the people that they serve, are taken from us by preventable violence.”

For more Rhode Island political news, click here.

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