Rhode Island incumbent Democrats fend off GOP challengers
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s top Democratic officeholders won re-election Tuesday by fending off Republican challengers and promising to continue work they started to help the state.
At the top of the ticket, Gov. Gina Raimondo, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, and Reps. James Langevin and David Cicilline all won re-election. Democratic Lt. Gov. Dan McKee, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Treasurer Seth Magaziner also earned a second term. Democrat Peter Neronha, a former U.S. attorney, was elected Rhode Island attorney general, succeeding the term-limited Democratic incumbent.
One of Rhode Island’s most powerful politicians, Democratic state House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, was narrowly re-elected in his Cranston district after an organized effort to oust him by the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence.
The traditionally Democrat-aligned groups felt Mattiello wasn’t addressing issues important to them. Mattiello has also recently faced criticism over how he has handled sexual harassment claims at the state house.
The state Board of Elections added partial mail ballot results to their count late Tuesday night, putting Mattiello ahead of Republican Steven Frias by more than 300 votes. It was a rematch from 2016, when Frias lost by 85 votes.
More than 346,000 residents statewide voted out of nearly 790,000 registered voters, the elections board said. That’s nearly 44 percent. In the 2014 election, 44 percent of voters cast ballots.
Several voters chose Democrats because they were upset with Republican President Donald Trump’s policies.
Yaseen Nagib, 18, a senior at Providence’s Classical High School, voted for the first time Tuesday just days after his birthday. Nagib said education, both locally and nationally, was the most important issue to him. He called Trump a “racist, and a liar,” and voted Democrat across the board, including for Raimondo over Republican Allan Fung, who supports Trump.
Steven Reiff, 34, voted in Warwick, though he doesn’t usually vote in midterms. Reiff, an independent, said he typically votes for politicians from both parties, but he supported Democrats this year.
“Just the general turmoil in the White House brought me out to vote. I feel like it’s more important this year than other years,” said Reiff, who works in health care.
Raimondo, the state’s first female governor, earned a second term with more than 50 percent of the vote. She beat back a challenge from Fung, the mayor of Cranston, and Joe Trillo, a former state lawmaker who left the Republican Party to run for governor as an independent.
Raimondo told voters she could continue Rhode Island’s economic momentum and Fung and Trillo would take the state backward. Raimondo and Fung were their parties’ nominees in 2014.
“We did it,” Raimondo said. “The stakes were very, very high in this election. The people of Rhode Island had a choice and they were crystal clear about the choice that they wanted tonight.”
Whitehouse was elected to a third term over Republican Bob Flanders. Langevin was elected to a 10th term over Republican Salvatore Caiozzo and Cicilline was elected to a fifth term over Republican Patrick Donovan. All three Democrats said they felt they had unfinished business in Washington.
Whitehouse is known being one of the leading voices in the Senate to do more to address climate change. He wants to protect people’s health care, get rid of anonymous “dark money” spending in political campaigns and pass a bill to charge a fee for carbon pollution.
Langevin and Cicilline said they will work to make health care and prescription drugs more affordable, rebuild infrastructure and try to reduce gun violence.
In Cranston, Democrat Yinka Folami said she voted because she’s not happy with the direction the country is heading. As a native of Nigeria who has lived in the U.S. for more than three decades, she said the immigration debate has been particularly troubling.
“My vote is a vote against Trump, really,” Folami said. “I’m an immigrant and I’ve been given an opportunity to make something of myself and that opportunity should be given to everyone else.”
Rhode Island voters also approved a $250 million bond for the first phase of an ambitious plan to rebuild schools. Raimondo championed it, asking voters to make a “once-in-a-generation investment to fix our schools” after years of neglect.
The only problems reported by the state elections board were a malfunctioning voting machine on Prudence Island and an electrical issue at a polling place in Portsmouth. A new machine was ferried over to Prudence Island, and the board said the polling place was operating normally and all ballots have been counted. The polling place in Portsmouth was relocated and voting hours were extended.
In local races, Democratic Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza won a second term, fending off a challenge from independent Dee Dee Witman.
Associated Press writers Michelle R. Smith and Philip Marcelo contributed to this report. For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics