While the race for President was far closer than most expected, this year’s local races offered their own handful of surprises. From the race for Cranston Mayor to House District 15, here are the key races — and surprises — that went down on Tuesday.
In one of the most pivotal elections of this cycle, Speaker of the Rhode Island House Nicholas Mattiello faced a difficult challenge in district 15 from Republican Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung. In the end, Fenton-Fung defeated the incumbent with 59 percent of the vote.
It’s the first time in more than a century that a RI House Speaker has lost a reelection bid.
Mattiello had run on the power he wielded in the House, but it proved to not be enough in the face of a series of scandals and investigations. One of Mattiello’s former aides faces money laundering charges, and Mattiello came under fire for ordering a potentially-illegal audit of the Rhode Island Convention Center.
The defeat of Mattiello leaves a gaping hole in the power structure of Rhode Island politics after six years with Mattiello at the helm in the House. The jockeying has already begun; House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi has thrown his hat in the ring, as has freshman Rep. Liana Cassar.
Upset in Warwick
An upstart independent challenger defeated the incumbent Mayor in Warwick, surprising many with a significant margin of victory — even the victor himself.
“I didn’t know how the election was going to go,” Frank Picozzi, now the mayor-elect of Warwick, told NBC 10 News. Picozzi defeated Joe Solomon with just less than 60 percent of the vote.
This was expected to be a close race, but Picozzi ran up the count with voters who saw Warwick as heading down the wrong path.
Narrow but expected win for Hopkins
In Cranston, Republican Ken Hopkins came away with victory on Tuesday in the campaign for Mayor. Set to succeed Allan Fung — husband of Fenton-Fung — Hopkins took 54 percent of the vote compared to Democratic challenger Maria Bucci’s 45 percent.
The win for Hopkins, a close ally of the term-limited Fung, was expected, as was the margin. But the win represents a continued dominance of Fung politics, even after the Mayor is out of office.
Progressives avoid a local Red Tide
While down-ballot races across the country leaned Republican, local Rhode Island progressives avoided a similar fate on Tuesday.
In House District 16 in Cranton, Brandon Potter won by nine points over Maryann Lancia. Lancia is the wife of US House of Representatives candidate Bob Lancia, who previously held the seat and lost in RI’s 2nd district against Jim Langevin.
Likewise, in Warwick, progressive Kendra Anderson defeated Republican Scott Zambarano after a tight and bruising three-way primary.
While the progressive victories were clearly not absolute — Mattiello’s loss in Cranston is a clear example of that — the state Democrats held on where they needed to.
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