Happy Election Day! We made it.
Polls opened at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m., so make sure you get out there to vote and pick up your sticker. If you have adorable pictures that make it look like your puppy is a Republican or your baby is a Democrat, feel free to send them to me.
I’ll be manning Globe Rhode Island’s Election Day blog beginning this afternoon until there is literally no more feeling left in my fingertips. You’ll be able to find the regularly updated blog and the rest of our election coverage on the Globe Rhode Island page.
The big races we’re watching in Rhode Island today are the 2nd Congressional District matchup between Republican Allan Fung and Democratic state Treasurer Seth Magaziner, and the governor’s race between Democratic incumbent Dan McKee and Republican Ashley Kalus.
Our team will have full coverage all night, and I’ll be doing a live hit with WPRO-AM at some point during the night. We’ll also have a special podcast wrapping up the results airing tomorrow.
Here are a few things to watch today.
It’s all about turnout I
As of 4:30 p.m. on Monday, 101,283 Rhode Islanders had already voted early (by mail or in-person), which is good for about 12.4 percent of the state’s roughly 720,000 registered voters. It’s less clear what that means for Election Day turnout.
In September’s Democratic and Republican primaries for governor, the early vote represented 25 percent of all voters. Democrats would be over the moon if that trend holds and the general election turnout was around 400,000, but it’s worth noting that the highest turnout in the last four gubernatorial races was 387,000 in the 2006 election (and that year’s Sheldon Whitehouse / Lincoln Chafee US Senate battle had intense interest).
It’s all about turnout II
Democrats and Republicans are both going to keep a close eye on Providence today because no one seems to be able to predict what it means without a mayoral race (Democratic primary winner Brett Smiley has no opponent) or a competitive challenger to US Representative David Cicilline in the 1st District.
Governor McKee has not run a Providence-centric campaign (although his headquarters is in the city), and outgoing Mayor Jorge Elorza has largely stayed out of the limelight after a rough primary night where his candidates lost (Helena Foulkes for governor, Gonzalo Cuervo for mayor). This one is difficult to handicap, but it’s not a great sign that Providence is behind Warwick and Cranston in early turnout numbers.
It’s all about turnout III
The race to replace US Representative James Langevin in the 2nd District has national buzz because Republicans have a real chance to win the seat for the first time in more than 30 years. That explains why Warwick and Cranston are ahead of Providence in the early vote. You’re also seeing suburbs like North Kingstown and South Kingstown come in with higher-than-expected early voting numbers, and those could be key communities to watch in the race between Fung and Magaziner.
Warwick plays kingmaker
The conventional wisdom in the Fung / Magaziner race is that Fung will run up the score in Cranston (he’s the former mayor), and Magaziner should run the table in Providence. But Warwick, which is home to the most registered voters in the 2nd District, is considered up for grabs by both campaigns.
If Fung can win there, it will probably be game over for Magaziner. But Magaziner has devoted of ton of resources to Warwick – including a last-minute robocall from former president Barack Obama that went to the entire district – and he is expecting to win by a couple of points in that city. That could mean we’re in for a late night in the 2nd District.
How close is the governor’s race?
Two public polls from early last month showed Governor McKee with a healthy lead over Kalus, but the truth is that we’re flying pretty blind at this point.
As you would expect, Kalus’ campaign is claiming it has all the momentum because she has spent millions of dollars introducing herself to voters just as they started to pay attention. They also point to a late ad buy from the Democratic Governors Association as evidence that McKee is on the ropes.
Then again, McKee is the Democratic incumbent in a state that hasn’t elected a single Republican to statewide office in 16 years. He hasn’t made any fatal mistakes since winning the Democratic primary in September, and the blunders he does make tend to get a lot more attention on Twitter than they do in the bakery.
Cannabis is on the ballot today
We are less than one month away from the recreational sale of marijuana going online in Rhode Island, but 31 cities and towns have questions on the ballot today asking voters to decide whether cannabis-related businesses – like retail stores – should be allowed in their municipality. This is the only chance voters have to reject those businesses because the state law is written in a way that essentially requires cities and towns to opt-out rather than opt-in to allowing those kinds of businesses.
There has not been a coordinated statewide effort for or against these ballot questions, but there’s a good chance that at least a handful of communities will have close votes.
Other interesting ballot questions
The statewide bond questions are all but guaranteed to pass, but there are a few interesting questions locally that we’ll be monitoring.
In Providence, voters will be asked to move from a mayoral-appointed school board to a partially elected school board, something Mayor-elect Smiley, Mayor Elorza, and former mayors Angel Taveras and Joe Paolino all oppose.
Newport and Middletown are considering regionalizing their school districts, but that requires affirmative votes in both communities, and Newport appears to be the one to watch.
The Rhode Island angle in Pennsylvania
While Republicans appear poised to win back the US House of Representatives, the Senate is considered completely up for grabs.
One of the major races that will go a long way in deciding who controls the chamber is Pennsylvania, where Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman squares off with Republican Mehmet Oz. The two are running to replace retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who was valedictorian at La Salle Academy in 1980.
This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.