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RI POLITICS

Top R.I. legislative leaders withstand challenges from progressives

Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi both had convincing wins in their districts in the Democratic primaries

The Rhode Island State House.Edward Fitzpatrick

PROVIDENCE — House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio both fended off challenges in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries, heading off any immediate seismic shifts atop the General Assembly power structure.

Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, trounced Jacqueline Anderson, who was backed by the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, receiving 69.6 percent of the vote in House District 23.

“I appreciate the overwhelming support shown to me today by the voters of District 23 and will now turn my attention to the general election,” Shekarchi said. “I will run on my record of working collaboratively with my colleagues in local and state government to get good things done, like the permanent elimination of the car tax.”

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Ruggerio, a North Providence Democrat, again beat back a challenge from Lenny Cioe, who was backed by the Political Cooperative, and Stephen G. Tocco, in Senate District 4. Ruggerio had 59.3 percent of the vote, to Cioe’s 34.8 percent and Tocco’s 6 percent.

“While the Senate president has not heard from Lenny Cioe that he has conceded the race, he is energized and ecstatic with the broad-based mandate he has received from the voters of District 4,” Ruggerio chief of staff Jake Bissaillon said.

Overall, the General Assembly saw 40 Democratic primaries and three Republican primaries on Tuesday that could reshuffle the power structure on Smith Hill.

Progressives went into the night hoping to build on their gains in the House and Senate during the 2018 and 2020 elections cycles, but they were also defending some seats while trying to win open seats and challenge more mainstream Democrats.

In House District 2, House Majority Leader Christopher R. Blazejewski, a Providence Democrat, beat back a challenge by Savannah DaCruz, who had Rhode Island Political Cooperative support. He had 73.9 of the vote.

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In House District 9, House Labor Committee Chair Anastasia P. Williams, who has been in office for nearly 30 years, lost to Enrique Sanchez, a 25-year-old former political director of Black Lives Matter RI PAC. Sanchez received 52.8 percent of the vote, topping Williams with 39.8 percent and Lonnie Mangum with 7.4 percent.

In House District 14, Deputy House Speaker Charlene Lima, a conservative Cranston Democrat, topped Giona A. Picheco, who is backed by the RI Working Families Party and would have been the first transgender member of the legislature. Lima received 59.8 percent of the vote to Picheco’s 40.2 percent.

In one of the few GOP primaries in the legislature, Representative Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, the Cranston Republican who knocked off former House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello two years ago, crushed Suzanne Downing in House District 15. Fenton-Fung, who is married to GOP congressional candidate and former Cranston mayor Allan W. Fung, receiving 92.5 percent of the vote.

In House District 16, Representative Brandon C. Potter, a Cranston Democrat backed by the RI Working Families Party, fended off a challenge by Natalya DelSanto. Potter rang up 67.2 percent of the vote.

In House District 32, House Judiciary Committee Chair Robert E. Craven withstood a challenge from Danielle L. Walsh, who is backed by the RI Political Cooperative. Craven took 59.2 percent of the vote to Walsh’s 40.8 percent.

In House District 42, Representative Edward T. Cardillo Jr., a Johnston Democrat, survived a challenge from his nephew, Dennis Cardillo Jr., and Kelsey Coletta, who was backed by the RI Working Families Party. Edward Cardillo received 41.3 percent while Coletta took 35.9 percent and Dennis Cardillo got 22.8 percent.

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In House District 49, Democrats Glenn F. Dusablon topped Alexander G. Kithes, of the RI Political Cooperative, in the race for the seat being vacated by Representative Steven J. Lima, a Woonsocket Democrat. Dusablon received 57.5 percent to 42.5 for Kithes.

In House District 55, House Rules Committee Chair Arthur J. Corvese, of North Providence, who is one the most conservative House Democrats, beat Clara A. Hardy, who was backed by the RI Political Cooperative. Corvese received 68.7 percent of the vote to Hardy’s 31.3 percent.

In House District 57, Representative James N. McLaughlin, a Cumberland Democrat and another of the most conservative House Democrats, lost a tight race with Brandon T. Voas, the cousin of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ryan W. Pearson, a Cumberland Democrat. Voas received 51.3 percent to McLaughlin’s 48.7 percent.

In House District 58, Cherie L. Cruz, who was backed by the RI Working Families Party and Reclaim RI, topped George P. Hovarth, Maribel Echeverry McLaughlin, and Matthew P. Carvalho in a four-way Democratic primary for the seat being vacated by Representative Carlos E. Tobon, a Pawtucket Democrat who was the subject of a WPRI-Channel 12 investigation. Cruz received 33.2 percent of the vote, beating Hovarth at 29.7 percent, McLaughlin at 28.7 percent, and Carvahlo at 8.4 percent.

In House District 59, Representative Jean Phillipe Barros, a Pawtucket Democrat, got knocked off by Jennifer Stewart, who was backed by the Rhode Island Political Cooperative. Stewart received 52.5 percent of the vote, topping Barros at 47.5 percent.

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In Senate District 1, Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, a Providence Democrat, took 77.7 percent of the vote in a matchup with the Rev. Donnie Anderson, who would have been the first transgender member of the legislature.

In Senate District 3, Senator Samuel D. Zurier soundly beat Robin N. Xiong, taking 73.6 percent of the vote to her 26.4 percent.

In Senate District 5, Senator Samuel W. Bell, a progressive Providence Democrat who has emerged as the most outspoken critic of the Senate leadership team, withstood a challenge from 12-year Providence City Council member David A. Salvatore. Bell received 60.1 percent of the vote to Salvatore’s 39.9 percent.

In Senate District 6, Senator Tiara Mack, a progressive Providence Democrat, beat former Representative Joseph S. Almeida, taking 56.7 percent of the vote to Almeida’s 43.3 percent.

In Senate District 11, with 56.4 percent of the vote, Portsmouth Town Council member Linda L. Ujifusa beat attorney Matthew A. Chappell with 9 of 10 polling places reporting, in a Democratic primary for the seat being vacated by James A. Seveney, a Portsmouth Democrat. If Ujifusa wins in the general election, she would become the first Asian American state legislator in Rhode Island history.

In Senate District 22, Smithfield Town Council member David P. Tikoian topped Melanie DuPont, a co-founder of the RI Political Cooperative, in the Democratic primary for the seat being vacated by Senator Stephen R. Archambault, a Smithfield Democrat. Tikoian received 64.1 percent of the vote to DuPont’s 35.9 percent.

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In Senate District 25, Senator Frank Lombardo III, a Johnston Democrat, beat back a challenged by former Senator Christopher B. Maselli, who spent two years behind bars for bank fraud and wrote a book titled “The New Debtors’ Prison.” Lombardo received 59.8 percent of the vote to Maselli’s 40.2 percent.

In Senate District 29, Jennifer T. Rourke, a co-founder of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, beat Michael C. Carreiro, president of the Warwick firefighters union, in the Democratic primary for the seat being vacated by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey, a Warwick Democrat. During the campaign, Carreiro apologized for wearing blackface during a 2009 event and faced questions about his residency. Rourke had 54.1 percent of the vote to Carreiro’s 45.9 percent.

In Senate District 30, Senator Jeanine Calkin, a Warwick Democrat and another co-founder of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, lost a matchup with former Senator Mark P. McKenney. McKenney received 53 percent to Calkin’s 47 percent.

In Senate District 31, former state prosecutor Matthew L. LaMountain beat Harrison Tuttle, executive director of the Black Lives Matter Rhode Island PAC, in the Democratic primary for the seat being vacated by Senator Kendra Anderson, a Warwick Democrat. LaMountain received 66.1 percent of the vote to Tuttle’s 33.9 percent.

In Senate District 38, Victoria Gu posted a convincing win in a Democratic primary over Sharon E. Ahern and Michael T. Niemeyer. Gu, who would be the first Asian American legislator in state history, received 65.8 percent to Ahern’s 27.8 percent and Niemeyer’s 6.4 percent. Gu will run in the general election for the seat that Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere, a Westerly Republican, is vacating.


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