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Five months left until Rhode Islanders head to the polls

Raymond Baccari

News Editor

Photo by Element5 Digital via pexels

There are five months left until Rhode Island’s statewide primary in September. Rhode Islanders will head to the polls on Sept. 13 and vote for candidates seeking a variety of offices. This election will determine the major party’s nominees for the general election on Nov. 8.

This year, political analysts are mainly focusing on the elections for Governor and Rhode Island’s Second Congressional District. Both races have the potential to be competitive due to the national environment favoring Republicans.

There are five Democrats, two Republicans and one Independent seeking Rhode Island’s top statewide office. Governor Dan McKee faces five primary challengers: Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Former Secretary of State Matt Brown, Former CVS Executive Helena Foulkes and RIC Alumnus Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz.

Political newcomer Ashley Kalus faces off against Rey Alberto Herrera in the Republican primary. Herrera was originally running as an Independent but switched. Kalus joining the primary gives the party a formidable candidate they couldn’t find for months. Other candidates who floated the idea of running were Former Turnpike and Bridge Authority Chairman David Darlington and House Minority Leader Blake Filippi (R-Dist. 36).

If Kalus is elected, she would be the first Republican Governor since Donald Carcieri was re-elected in 2006. Key issues on voters’ minds for this race are housing, the economy, education, lowering COVID cases and the legalization of marijuana.

The one Independent running for Governor is Paul Rianna Jr, a former CNA who has centered his campaign around opposing vaccine and mask mandates.

Rianna leans further to the right than the current Republicans seeking this office. It remains to be seen what percentage of the vote he receives. But Independents have a history of getting a sizable amount of votes. Former Governor Lincoln Chafee was elected in 2010 as an Independent and Founder of the Cool Moose Party Bob Healy garnered 21.4% of the statewide vote.

This Democratic primary will showcase the factionalization between progressives and moderates. McKee represents the moderate wing of the party. Gorbea leans more to the left than McKee. Muñoz and Brown represent the progressive faction in the party. Brown is running alongside an expected 50 candidates throughout Rhode Island that share similar progressive values.

A similar situation is evident in the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor. Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos faces two primary challengers: State Senator Cynthia Mendes (D-Dist. 18) and State Representative Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74). Ruggiero and Matos are center-left compared to Mendes, who is running together with Brown as part of the Political Cooperative’s goal to increase its influence.

There are two Republicans running for Lieutenant Governor too. Jeann Lugo, a Providence police officer, and 2018 GOP nominee Paul Pence will face off in a primary. One candidate is seeking the office as an Independent – Keith Harrison. Top issues all the candidates for this office might prioritize are housing, small businesses, education and how they would do more work than the position is required to.

The election for Secretary of State hasn’t garnered much attention despite having no incumbent. In the state’s number three office, there are only two known candidates five months out. 2018 GOP nominee Pat Cortellessa has indicated he will run again for the office. On the Democratic side, State Representative Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65) remains unopposed too. Issues facing this race will likely surround voting rights and how Rhode Island will handle its elections moving forward.

Providence’s Mayoral election will see four candidates hoping to succeed term-limited Mayor Jorge Elorza. The first Providence Mayoral debate of 2022 was held virtually at RIC. That debate can be viewed here.

Rhode Island’s Attorney General race, has only two known candidates. Attorney Charles Calenda is running for the office as a Republican. Attorney General Peter Neronha faces no challengers in the Democratic primary. Key issues pertaining to this race are public safety, is the office becoming more political, tackling corruption, and nationalized issues such as vaccine mandates and parental involvement in school curriculums.

The election for Treasurer only has one declared candidate – Former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa. Diossa was speculated to run for Lieutenant Governor prior to his announcement. One other Democrat expected to jump in the race is Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor.

No Republicans or Independents have launched a campaign. Former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung was expected to run for Treasurer before he announced his congressional candidacy. Candidates will likely focus on the economy, state finances and Providence’s unfunded pension system during their campaigns.

Congressman David Cicilline faces off against Republican candidate Allen Waters in Congressional District 1. Waters was the 2020 GOP nominee versus U.S. Senator Jack Reed.

In Congressional District 2, seven Democrats and two Republicans are hoping to succeed Congressman Jim Langevin. The Democrats include Dr. Omar Bah, Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Joy Fox, Sarah Morgenthau, David Segal, Cameron Moquin and Michael Neary. The Republican candidates are Bob Lancia and Fung. The issues will vary as this will be a nationalized race.

Election season is likely to heat up as September gets closer. How it will affect the general election remains to be seen.



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