Progressive Democrats Target 15 General Assembly Seats in RI

Thursday, June 02, 2016


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Progressive Democrat Margaux Morisseau is one of a number of former candidates looking to get the vote in 2016.

Will Progressive Democrats in Rhode Island see any gains at the General Assembly this November?

Election Day is five months away, following a Presidential Preference Primary in Rhode Island which saw Bernie Sanders top Hillary Clinton in what has historically been “Clinton Country.”

SLIDES: 15 Key Races for Progressive Democrats BELOW

GoLocal spoke with Sam Bell, the State Director for the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, for his take. 

“I think this year people are just upset with the establishment,” said Bell. “Our goal is to make gains -- if we don't, we'll see an onslaught of extreme right ring policy -- brutal cuts to cities and towns, more tax cuts to rich, even abortion restrictions, NRA backed gun legislation. If we send a message, there's both a lot less chance for extreme right wing politics, and also for laying the groundwork for changing how we do politics in Rhode Island.”

Non-Binding Look at Races

Bell noted that the races he identified Wednesday are not an exhaustive list nor are they an endorsement by the Progressive Democrats of any candidate, but rather a look at races that he sees as being competitive. 

“It’s been difficult to push the progressive agenda here,” said Bell. “Marriage equality required massive mobilization --- that’s not to say we couldn’t do that on some other issues.  In the next year or two, after Massachusetts most likely passes marijuana legalization, that could pass in Rhode Island.”

“The path for progressive change is for the people of Rhode Island to make our voices clear,” said Bell. “We've stopped a lot of awful things -- we were part of an improbable stop of the Providence [PawSox] stadium. We would have never thought [Representative] Cale Keable would have come out against the [Burrillville] power plant.”


Related Slideshow: Races to Watch in 2016 - RI Progressive Democrats

Sam Bell, State Director for the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, ran through a list of races to watch at the GA in 2016. Bell noted that as of June 1, Progressive Dems had yet to make endorsements.  "This is just my take and analysis of these races," said Bell. 

Bell noted other races as well that weren't on the list. 

"Julie Casimiro, because of her positions on certain labor issues and some of her past work on education, but we view her as a real Democrat, we are certainly cheering her on, and some of our members may well help her out," said Bell, who noted it was similar for another Democrat. "Same for Lisa Tomasso, we certainly feel she is the much preferable candidate (to Republican Sherry) Roberts."

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1. House District 60

Incumbent: Rep. David Coughlin (D)

Challenger: David Norton (D)


"[Coughlin] is facing a strong challenger in Norton. I think the [PawSox] stadium issue really resonated with people in Pawtucket, and the problem with the way politics works in RI. Pawtucket has a unique understanding of that, and Coughlin is out of step with the district and vulnerable," said Bell. 

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2. House District 54

Incumbent: Rep. William O'Brien (D)

Challenger: Bill Deware (D)

North Providence

"Bill's the head of the Rhode Island Radiologist Association, he's been active in UNAP. O'Brien has painted himself as an established politician. He wanted to lower the corporate income tax. On economic issues he's out of step with the middle class in his district," said Bell. 

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3. House District 67

Incumbent: Rep. Jan Malik (D)

Challenger: Jason Knight (D)

Barrington, Warren

"Malik has been extremely ideologically conservative, with an 'A plus' rating from the NRA. He voted against marriage equality and his district isn't extremely right wing -- it's very liberal on social issues. And Warren is a place where you saw two successful progressive town council primaries last cycle, knocking out established [Democrats]," said Bell. 

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4. House District 3

Incumbent: Rep. Thomas Palangio (D)

Challenger: Moira Walsh (D)


Walsh, a Classical High School and Rhode Island College Grad, who has been an organizer for Jobs with Justice, is challenging Pelangio on Smith Hill.

Pelangio served as a State Rep from 1992-2002; he was elected again in 2012 and then again in 2014.

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5. House District 69

Incumbent: Open (after Ray Gallison stepped down)

Challenger: Susan Donovan (D)


"The machine has still yet to put up someone to replace Gallison. People are really excited about change, especially with what happened there.  I'd be surprised if leadership even wants to go in there," said Bell. 

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6. House District 25

Incumbent: Rep. Jared Nunes (D)

Challenger: Kathleen Decker (D)

Coventry, West Warwick

"There's two races in West Warwick, and Nunes is one of them. Remember, he proposed "tolls everywhere"," said Bell, referencing his assessment of Nunes public-private funding proposal for roads. 

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7. House District 27

Incumbent: Rep. Pat Serpa (D)

Challenger: Nicholas Delmenico (D)

Warwick, West Warwick, Coventry

"Serpa just canceled the hearings on 38 Studios. West Warwick is a community that's been damaged by machine politics," said Bell. 

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8. House District 22

Incumbent: Joseph Solomon, Jr. (D)

Challenger: Jennifer Siciliano (D)


"She jumped in last minute to run against Solomon again -- and again, he is someone who's endorsed by the NRA. I think he's out of step with the party's core values, and it's a community that knows we need change," said Bell.

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9. House District 24

Incumbent: Rep. Joe Trillo (R)

Challenger: Evan Shanley (D)


"Yes, Trillo is a Republican, he's Trump's guy here. But he's tied to the political establishment. That's the way the establishment works," said Bell.

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10. House District 72

Incumbent: Rep. Dan Reilly (R)

Challenger: Linda Finn (D)

Middletown, Portsmouth

"Finn's running again against Reilly, who it's no secret is dealing with major legal issues with his family. He's vulnerable," said Bell. 

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11. House District 39

Incumbent: Justin Price (R)

Challenger: Larry Valencia (D)

Hopkinton, Exeter, Richmond

Valencia ran and lost in 2008, won in 2010 and 2012, and was beaten by Price in 2014. 

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12. Senate District 11

Incumbent: Sen. John Pagliarini, Jr. (R)

Challenger: James Seveney (D)

Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton

"I like this rematch. Especially in a Presidential year, where the Republicans will have to defend Trump," said Bell. 

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13. Senate District 34

Incumbent: Sen. Elaine Morgan (R)

Challenger: Catherine Cool Rumsey (D)

Charles, Exeter, Hopkington, Richmond, West Greenwich

"Morgan beat Rumsey in 2014, in a year that the state's Democratic candidate, Gina Raimondo, narrowly carried the race. It was uniquely bad for down ballot races (for the Dems). Now with Trump at the top of the ticket for the Rs, it will be hard for Morgan," said Bell. 

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14. Senate District 21

Incumbent: Sen. Nick Kettle (R)

Challenger: Margaux Morisseau (D)


Progressive Morisseau lost to Kettle in 2014 and is making another run at the seat in 2016. 

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15. Senate District 7

Incumbent: Sen. Frank Ciccone (D)

Challenger: Doris De Los Santos (D)

Providence, North Providence

De Los Santos is making another run at the seat held by Ciccone since 2002; she ran unsuccessfully in 2014. 


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