As election night results trickle in, Rhode Island residents have decided several elections for state-level positions. Tuesday’s results demonstrated strong support for Democrats in the Ocean State, as the party swept all major state-level positions and successfully defended against a Republican challenger in the race for the 2nd Congressional District.
McKee reclaims gubernatorial position
After his narrow victory in the Democratic primary this past September, incumbent governor Daniel McKee has secured another term and beat GOP nominee Ashley Kalus, a businesswoman and political newcomer, in a landslide. The race was called by NBC News at 8:40 p.m. As of 11:55 p.m. McKee had garnered 57.8% of votes, with Kalus trailing at 39%. WPRI reported that Kalus had called McKee to concede the governor’s race at 8:58 p.m.
McKee polled comfortably higher than Kalus in the weeks leading up to the election: according to a WPRI-TV and Roger Williams University Poll released in October, McKee held a double-digit lead over Kalus.
Kalus, a newcomer to Rhode Island and a largely self-financed candidate, ran an aggressive campaign against McKee beginning in the spring. Her campaign targeted the cost of living as a key platform issue, painting both McKee and President Joe Biden as the reason for high rates of inflation. While the cost of living was cited as the top issue by 42% of the potential voters surveyed, McKee led Kalus in every age group surveyed in the poll. Women showed a particularly strong preference for McKee, a result that may be related to McKee’s pro-choice beliefs.
Lieutenant Governor Matos reelected
Sabina Matos, the Democratic incumbent lieutenant governor of Rhode Island, was victorious over Republican Aaron Guckian, reclaiming her role after securing 51% of the vote as of 11:55 p.m. on Tuesday, WPRI reported.
In the primary elections, Matos secured 47.1% of the vote. Matos was nominated by McKee to fill his prior position of lieutenant governor when he ascended to the role of governor of Rhode Island in early 2021.
The lieutenant governor has limited governing duties and steps in if the acting governor resigns or is incapacitated in some way. The lieutenant governor also chairs four boards: the Long Term Care Coordinating Council, the Alzheimer’s State Plan Executive Board, the Emergency Management Advisory Council and the Small Business Advocacy Council.
The limited scope of the lieutenant governor position had been one of the campaign focuses of Aaron Guckian, who envisioned turning the lieutenant governor’s office into a “help center,” according to The Providence Journal. Guckian told The Journal that the office would aid constituents in navigating the state’s bureaucracy and would offer support to small business owners while also documenting specific areas within the government that seemed to be causing routine problems for Rhode Islanders.
Neronha secures reelection as R.I. attorney general
Reclaiming a job he’s held since his election in 2018, incumbent Democrat Peter Neronha P'22 was reelected as attorney general of Rhode Island, defeating Republican challenger Charles Calenda. As of 11:55 p.m. on Tuesday, Neronha had secured 61.3% of the vote compared to Calenda’s 38.5% according to WPRI.
Neronha was appointed by then-President Barack Obama to serve in the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s office in 2009, a position he held until 2017. His opponent, Calenda, held the position of special assistant attorney general in the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office until 2018.
Neronha advocated for gun control laws and consumer protection laws as attorney general. He also focused on child safety, backing a law that enabled Rhode Island to charge parents and guardians who put children in harm’s way with felony child endangerment. In Calenda’s time since stepping down from the attorney general’s office, he has focused on criminal defense at the law firm Inman & Tourgee in Coventry.
Diossa to serve as next treasurer
In a face-off between Democrat James Diossa and Republican James Lathrop, Diossa won the race for treasurer. The race was called by WPRI at 9:05 p.m. Tuesday night after Diossa secured 54.2% of the vote as of 11:55 p.m.
Diossa, who defeated Stefan Pryor in the primary elections after a tight race, previously served two terms as mayor of Central Falls. His primary campaign was based largely on this mayoral experience, as he was tasked with saving the city from bankruptcy. Beyond his relevant experience, Diossa campaigned on a platform of managing the pension fund, using state funding to combat climate change and investing in the public school system. Diossa’s campaign had also targeted Lathrop for making two campaign mistakes in under a month. Lathrop called on Rhode Island to reinstate cost-of-living adjustments for state-managed municipal pension plans in mid-September after this reinstatement had already occurred. A few weeks later, Lathrop admitted to forgetting to file a campaign finance report that was required to be submitted 28 days prior to the election.
Lathrop ran unopposed in the GOP primary and has previously worked as a certified public accountant and a municipal finance director for various towns in Rhode Island, including Hopkinton, Westerly and North Kingstown. In an interview with the Providence Journal, Lathrop stated plans to increase transparency within the treasurer’s office, including greater clarity about where Rhode Island invests its money. Other goals of Lathrop’s included enabling Rhode Island to use short-term borrowing to temporarily resolve cash-flow problems, lower the fees the state pays on investments and serve as a resource for people to learn about personal finances.
Smiley, running unopposed, ascends to mayoral office
After beating opponents Gonzalo Cuervo and Nirva LaFortune MA’19 in the Democratic primary for Providence mayor, Democrat Brett Smiley officially secured his role as mayor after running unopposed in the general election.
Smiley campaigned on issues such as public safety, climate justice and environmental sustainability, making improvements to the Providence K-12 public school system and affordable housing reform, The Herald previously reported. He has also worked with a variety of non-profits and community groups, including Planned Parenthood, Marriage Equality Rhode Island and the national Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. Smiley previously served as chief of staff for Governor Gina Raimondo, as well as the acting director of the Rhode Island Department of Administration during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the midterm elections, Democrats held a lead in both the Rhode Island House of Representatives and the Senate. In the House, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 65 to 10; in the Senate, 33 Democrats held seats compared to five Republicans. It remains to be seen whether this balance will be maintained or flipped after Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Incumbent K. Joseph Shekarchi, a Democrat and the speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives since last January, defeated Republican Dana James Traversie in the race for the 23rd House District. As of 11:55 p.m. on election night, Shekarchi had received 59.8% of votes, with Traversie receiving 40.1% of votes.
Shekarchi was embroiled in controversy leading up to the election. On Oct. 27, one of Shekarchi’s top aides resigned after news broke that he had been involved in an illegal marijuana business linked to the mob. Shekarchi told WPRI-12 that he had no knowledge of the aide’s involvement in the business.
This is a developing story. More to follow.