PROVIDENCE — In deep-blue Rhode Island, Republicans were hoping to add to the 15 seats they hold out of the 113 Assembly districts. But depending on a few close races, Election Day could leave the GOP with about the same – if not exactly the same – number of seats.
This year, 66 Republicans ran for the 113 General Assembly seats, marking a 57 percent increase over the 42 Republicans who ran in 2020.
Rhode Island Republican Party Chair Sue Cienki had acknowledged the GOP probably wouldn’t achieve its long-term goal of gaining the one-third of House or Senate seats needed to block a state budget proposal. But she said Republicans were able to field more candidates this year because of a “vigorous” recruitment effort and because, she said, people are fed up.
Rhode Island Democratic Party Chair Joseph M. McNamara had contended that Democrats would take all five statewide general offices while returning a Democratic majority to both the House and Senate. And he said the goal was to reduce the already small number of Republicans in each legislative chamber.
McNamara, a Democratic state representative from Warwick, said he’d knocked on 2,000 doors and found voters appreciated the achievements of the Democratic-dominated legislature such as “common sense” gun laws and a state budget that eliminated the car tax.
Here are results in some key General Assembly races:
House District 23. House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, coasted to victory over Republican Dana James Traversie, 59.8 percent to 40.1 percent.
In a Democratic primary in September, Shekarchi trounced Jacqueline Anderson, who was backed by the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, receiving 69.6 percent of the vote in House District 23.
House District 39. Democrat Megan L. Cotter led Representative Justin K. Price, a Richmond Republican, by just four votes in the race for a district that includes Richmond, Exeter, and part of Hopkinton.
With all six polling places reporting, Cotter had 2,989 votes, Price had 2,985, and independent candidate Sean Patrick Comella had 669, according to the state Board of Elections.
McNamara noted that Price faced pressure to resign after tweeting that he “marched to the Capitol” with “peaceful patriots” on Jan. 6, 2021. Price said he didn’t enter the building and claimed Antifa “false flagged” the “Trump rally.” Cienki noted Price beat Cotter in the 2020 election, taking 52 percent of the vote to Cotter’s 48 percent, and she expects Price to prevail again.
A week before Election Day, Price had a little over $1,100 in campaign cash on hand, after spending about $2,900 on campaign expenses. His biggest donation was $1,000 from Republican gubernatorial candidate Ashley Kalus, whose spokesman said she had maxed out donations to nearly all the GOP candidates in Rhode Island. Both of Price’s challengers had raised far more.
House District 30. Representative Justine A. Caldwell, an East Greenwich Democrat, withstood a challenge from Republican Amanda M. Blau.
With all five polling places reporting, Caldwell had 54.4 percent of the vote, while Blau had 45.5 percent.
Blau, who lives in West Greenwich, is an attorney who was elected to the Chariho School Committee at age 20, serving from 2010-14. Cienki said Blau “works well with all individuals across the political spectrum,” and she accused Caldwell of ignoring the West Greenwich portion of House District 30. McNamara said Caldwell “has proven to be an effective leader who has a record of accomplishments, including common sense gun reform that I believe is strongly supported by her constituents.”
House District 21. Representative Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson, a Warwick Democrat, held a 16-vote lead over Republican Marie A. Hopkins. With all four polling sites reporting, Vella-Wilkinson had 2,579 votes, while Hopkins had 2,563, according to the Board of Elections.
Hopkins, who has worked as an acute and criminal psychiatric nurse, “works extremely hard and is out there seven days a week, knocking on doors, listening to people,” Cienki said. McNamara said Vella-Wilkinson is a former Warwick City Council member and retired Navy officer who sponsored a new law that extends property tax exemptions to veterans who served in uniform during the Cold War.
Senate District 26. Senator Frank S. Lombardi, a Cranston Democrat, held off Republican Joseph A. Powers. With all eight polling places reporting, Lombardi had 57.5 percent of the vote, while Powers had 42.3 percent.
Powers served in the US Coast Guard and now works as a real estate agent, general contractor, and investor. Cienki criticized Lombardi for initially signing onto a vaccination-mandate bill introduced by Senator Samuel W. Bell, although Lombardi later removed his name after it was criticized by Republicans. McNamara said Lombardi is another Democrat who “matches his district regarding Second Amendment rights and being very conservative on many issues that would not fly on the East Side of Providence. We have a big tent and we are proud of it.”
House District 36. McNamara noted the Assembly’s two top Republicans — House Minority Leader Blake A. Filippi and Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere — aren’t seeking re-election, and he said Democrats are looking to pick up both seats.
Democrat Tina L. Spears crushed Republican John F. Pacheco III, 61.3 percent to 38.6 percent, in the race for the seat Filippi has held since 2015.
Spears, a Charlestown resident, is a well-known executive director of the Community Provider Network of Rhode Island, and her focus on the environment will be well-received in that district, McNamara said. Cienki said Pacheco, who lives in Charlestown, is a former Burrillville Town Council member and small business owner who worked hard on the campaign trail.
Senate District 38. Democrat Victoria Gu became one of Rhode Island’s first Asian American state legislators by winning a four-way race for the seat that Algiere, a Westerly Republican, is vacating after 30 years in the Senate.
With all 10 polling places reporting, Gu had 46.1 percent, Republican Westin J. Place had 27.8 percent, and independent candidate Caswell Cooke Jr. had 26.1 percent, according to the Board of Elections.
McNamara noted the House passed a shore access bill in June, and he said, “We need a champion in the Senate. I believe (Gu) is a person who can get that across the finish line.”
Senate District 29. Republican Anthony Phillip DeLuca II beat Democrat Jennifer Rourke, a co-founder of the progressive Rhode Island Political Cooperative, in the race for the state Senate District 29 seat that Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey, a Warwick Democrat, is vacating after 28 years in office.
Progress Rhode Island, a union-backed group chaired by former state Democratic Party chairman Guy Dufault, poured thousands of dollars into campaign mailers opposing progressive Assembly candidates such as Rourke.
Senate District 11. Linda Ujifusa, a Portsmouth Democrat, became one of the first Asian American state legislators by winning the Senate district seat that Senator James Seveney, a Portsmouth Democrat, is vacating.
With all 10 polling sites reporting, Ujifusa had 54.8 percent of the vote, while former state Representative Kenneth J. Mendonca, a Portsmouth Republican, had 38.4 percent, independent candidate Andrew V. Kelly had 3.6 percent, and independent candidates Mario J. Teixeira had 3.1 percent.