RI voters favor challengers in statehouse contests
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island voters unseated several veteran state lawmakers in a primary election that also set the stage for the fall’s Congressional matchups.
Tuesday’s election also served as a test of the state’s new voter ID law. No problems were reported at the polls, where voters are now asked to present identification.
In the election’s highest-profile race, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline dispatched businessman Anthony Gemma in the state’s 1st District Democratic primary.
Incumbent state lawmakers who lost their bids for another term included State Rep. Rene Menard, D-Lincoln, who was defeated by Democrat Mia Ackerman by 2 percentage points. Menard, a retired firefighter, was first elected to the House in 1988.
Other incumbents defeated Tuesday include Democratic Reps. Jon Brien, of Woonsocket; Peter Petrarca and Michael Tarro, of Providence and William San Bento of Pawtucket, a 20-year veteran of the General Assembly who lost by only 12 votes.
Tarro said low turnout gave an advantage to energized challengers. Tarro came in last in a three-way Democratic contest that was won by former Providence Acting Mayor and City Councilman John Lombardi.
‘‘With such low voter turnout it’s all about who gets out their voters,’’ he said. ‘‘Anything can happen.’’
Democratic candidate Adam Satchell, who defeated state Sen. Michael Pinga of West Warwick 58 percent to 42 percent, said voters want new ideas for solving the state’s economic woes.
‘‘They were ready for a change,’’ said Satchell, who faces Republican Paul Caianiello in the Nov. 6 election. ‘‘People want new ideas.’’
Several voters interviewed by The Associated Press said they’re not satisfied with the General Assembly’s work to help the economy.
Voter Steve Enderby said he’s fed up with the Assembly’s attempts to help the beleaguered economy in Rhode Island, which has the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate at 10.8 percent.
‘‘I'm tired of all the career politicians that have done nothing for us,’’ he said. ‘‘I want to see jobs in this state. It’s the lack of results that bother me.’’
Democratic state Rep. Leo Medina, who was charged last month with practicing law without a license, lost to former lawmaker Joseph Almeida by 30 percentage points. Medina also is facing allegations he pocketed the proceeds from a life insurance policy on a friend’s dead daughter and has pleaded not guilty.
Other incumbents survived close calls.
Senate Finance Chairman Dan DaPonte, D-East Providence, won 51 percent of the vote to fend off a challenge from state Rep. Roberto DaSilva, D-East Providence.
Sen. Michael McCaffrey, of Warwick, narrowly beat challenger Laura Pisaturo to win the Democratic nomination. McCaffrey’s victory was a bitter loss for gay-marriage supporters, who had hoped to unseat McCaffrey, chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee and an opponent to same-sex marriage. Pisaturo is openly gay.
Ray Sullivan, campaign director for the group Fight Back Rhode Island, which supports gay marriage, noted that other candidates backed by his group won, including Satchell and Almeida. He said his group will continue to play a role in the next phase of the election.
‘‘We picked up some momentum, and we’re very excited about the general election,’’ he said.
Turnout on Tuesday was light at most polling places, with a turnout of about 12.5 percent of those eligible to vote in the primary.
For many voters, Tuesday’s election was the first time they were asked to present identification at the polls. Election officials said that there were no significant problems and that they've heard of only two voters who were given provisional ballots because they lacked ID. No problems with voter ID were reported in three smaller elections held earlier this year.
Providence poll worker Sylvia Stimma said voters were ready for the new requirement.
‘‘The voters have been great and they have their IDs ready to go when they show up,’’ she said an hour before the polls closed.
Unlike several legislative upsets, the primary’s congressional races had few surprises.
Along with Cicilline’s win over Gemma in the 1st District, U.S. Rep. James Langevin easily beat Democratic primary opponent John Matson in the 2nd District. Langevin, of Warwick, was first elected to the U.S. House in 2000 and is the only quadriplegic serving in Congress. Langevin spent Tuesday in Washington, saying he didn’t want to miss any votes.
‘‘I never take any election for granted,’’ Langevin said. ‘‘I'm going to continue to work hard to fight for the middle class, fight to put people back to work and create a tax code that helps small businesses.’’Continued...