RICHMOND, R.I. — Democrat Megan Cotter has edged ahead of state Representative Justin K. Price in the race for House District 39, covering Exeter, Hopkinton, and Richmond, according to unofficial counts by the Board of Elections. And as the Democratic newcomer widens her lead, the incumbent Republican who is losing the race says he has concerns about the mail ballots.
By Thursday afternoon, as more mail ballots and provisional ballots were counted, Cotter gained a 29-vote lead ahead of Price, with an unofficial tally by the state Board of Elections of 3,024 to 2,995. (Independent Sean Patrick Comella now has 670 votes.)
Most of the mail ballots counted after the Nov. 8 election were votes for Cotter. Nationwide, Democrats have used mail ballots more often than Republicans, ever since then-president Donald J. Trump spread falsehoods about the security of voting and misrepresented issues with mail ballots during the 2020 election.
Still, Price said Friday, “It seems kind of odd that it’s not split like the election has been going... it seems a little out of balance.” He said he plans to request a recount.
Rhode Island election officials had encouraged a wider use of mail ballots during the 2020 election, which helped lead to a record number of people casting votes, despite the pandemic.
This year, when the General Assembly moved to make those voting provisions permanent, Price was one of 13 legislators who opposed the legislation, complaining it could allow voter fraud.
The Let RI Vote Act included a wider use of mail ballots and defined “early voting” as up to 20 days before the election. Governor Daniel McKee signed it into law in June.
While Price said Friday that he wasn’t saying the mail ballots were fraudulent, he did have concerns about the high percentage that went to his Democratic opponent.
“[Voting] 20 days before the election and now to have the votes counted after the election, I think it’s not good. I think it needs to be reviewed,” Price said. “I advocated for no change, and they changed the whole thing.”
“The changes in election process need oversight in order to be an open and fair election, that’s all,” he added.
Price was first elected to the House District 39 seat in 2014, replacing Democrat Lawrence M. “Larry” Valencia. (The state Board of Elections recently accused Valencia of using at least $2,500 in Richmond Democratic Town Committee funds for personal use.
Cotter ran against Price in 2020 and came within about 320 votes.
Then, after Price marched on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, Cotter announced she would run again.
Even though Price had faced calls from Democrats to resign over being at the Capitol on Jan. 6, he said Friday that it didn’t have any effect on support from voters in this conservative district.
“Most people didn’t care. I think most people appreciated the fact that I went there,” Price said. “The people who expressed [anything] were supportive. They thought it was great. They think I represented them.”
Price said that he was “interrogated” by the FBI about his presence at the Capitol and had to hire a lawyer. “They told me, we know it wasn’t you. We did facial recognition,” Price said, declining to elaborate.
“I wasn’t afraid to go there, and it wasn’t an insurrection,” Price said. “People had no problem with it. What they told me is, I should be able to go down there as a citizen and not be condemned for going down there.”
Price knocked on a lot of voters’ doors, and said people told him, “We are done with the Democrats.”
He blames the independent candidate, Comella, for costing him votes. “He siphoned votes from me and gave [the election] to the Democrat,” Price said.
“But, it’s not over yet,” he added.