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Union Activist Wins Providence Council Seat in Landslide

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Fewer than 650 voters turned out Tuesday to elect Democrat Carmen Castillo to the Providence City Council over Republican candidate Christian Chirino. A third candidate, Rochelle Lee, staged an unsuccessful write-in campaign after losing to Castillo in the Democratic primary.

The special election was for the vacant Ward 9 Council Seat, which was previously held by Miguel Luna, who died after suffering a massive heart attack in August.

Castillo, a union activist for UNITE HERE local 217, helped organize the Westin Hotel workers boycott last year and was long considered the favorite in the race after narrowly winning the six-way primary earlier this month. She had the support of the SEIU and Mayor Angel Taveras walked door-to-door with her last weekend.

Landslide victory

In total, Castillo collected 495 votes while Chirino collected 86 votes. Lee was able to obtain 58 write-in votes.

Providence Democratic City Committee Chairperson Lauren Nocera said Castillo will bring a strong voice to the City Council

"On behalf of the Providence Democratic City Committee, I congratulate Carmen Castillo on a resounding victory tonight. I am thrilled that hundreds of Democrats, Republicans and Independent voters united to elect Carmen to the Ward 9 City Council seat," Nocera said. "Carmen has spent her entire career fighting for living wage jobs and fairness in the workplace. She will be a strong voice on the City Council for jobs, housing, public education and other issues facing working families."

Democrats Control Council

Castillo’s victory means all 15 Providence City Council seats will continue to be held by Democrats. The Council has not had a minority party member since David Segal last held the Ward 1 Council seat in 2006. Segal ended up moving to the Democratic party during his time as a State Representative.

Chirino faced an uphill battle from the beginning. But Republicans believed they had the right candidate in the 20 year old Community College of Rhode Island student. In the end, a strong effort from the Democratic machine quelled any hopes of an upset.

Despite the loss, Providence GOP chairperson Tara Pinsky offered an optimistic view of the race, arguing that simply having the option to vote for a non-Democrat was a success in its own right.

“Chris did an amazing job running as a Republican in Ward 9! He worked for every vote of the 86 he got,” Pinsky wrote in a Facebook message last night. “It was nice that they finally had an option. We will continue to grow the Republican party though out the City. Planting the seeds of conservatism!”

Castillo’s Role

It is unclear exactly what role Castillo will play on the Council as far committee seats. Luna served only on the City Property Committee while two of his allies (Luis Aponte and Davian Sanchez) were not appointed to a single committee last January. Aponte and Sanchez publicly endorsed Castillo.

It is, however, likely Castillo will follow Luna’s legacy as a progressive-minded Councilman that will fight for workers’ rights. One of the first issues she’ll be faced with is the debate over the Achievement First charter management organization coming to Providence to open a Mayoral Academy.

While the Council ultimately has no say in whether the school will open, it has taken up the issue after several Council members raised concerns. The school is supported by Mayor Taveras and Council President Michael Solomon, but Luna was a vocal opponent.


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Great...another union hack with political power purchased for her by the unions and their PAC's.....can't wait to see next years tax bills. She'll be a strong voice for the teachers unions that have destroyed our public schools.

Comment #1 by Russ Hryzan on 2011 11 30

I don't understand the GOP saying they are the choice for a non-DEM vote. I think at the local level it's more about what the voters think the person can do for their community and the party affiliation is a “so what”. A larger part is the candidate’s connection with the people in that community and that is usually what gets the vote. Having a union affiliation in a unionized state says a lot for the person running. Having Tavers go on the hoof with the candidate is an unbeatable combo, especially in this part of Providence. Is it good that another unionized DEM gets into any office, no, not for the good of reason and rational in helping the city and state. This is another person that will NOT see the big picture and will dig in for their piece of the unionized DEM action, at the cost of Prov and RI. Now the party affiliation and union affiliation becomes the problem because the thinking is being done for the candidate. The losers, of course, the voters.

Comment #2 by Gary Arnold on 2011 11 30

650 people. That's it. I know nothing about this person, although one can assume much based on her bio, but regardless - 650 people. How much of an impact will she have not just on her district but also on the city as a whole and thus the whole state? Will my tax dollars now be used to help pay for nonsense that 650 people may or may not have decided they wanted? Pathetic.

Comment #3 by ProJo Login on 2011 11 30

I am sure she is an excellent maid, but can she read a budget? Does she have the education skills necessary to make the right decisions, or did she just get elected because of her union ties? After all, Providence is in a crisis right now, this should be about electing the best person for the job!

Comment #4 by jack flash on 2011 11 30

The truth is that Carmen is an exceptional organizer. That is why she won. That is what the community needs; someone with the vision and ability to organize the community to fight for improvements together. No one person can win fairness for non-wealthy people. But united, led by a proven organizer like Carmen Castillo, Ward 9 can and will.

Comment #5 by Andrew Tillett-Saks on 2011 12 01

So the union hack wins...nothing new in RI

Comment #6 by David Bibeault on 2011 12 02

I believe Carmen because of all the work she's done for her community, co-workers and to be quite frank every one who's needed it! Providence really needs someone who understands them; who has walked in their shoes. It's amazing that a women who has worked as a room attendant for many years of her life would still have the strength to run a campaign and ultimetly succeed. This city has a great challenge ahead and I am a believer that ward 9 choose smartly.

Furthermore, I look forward to seeing what she brings to the table, and for all those who are skeptic, doubtful and uncertain, I say that it is not the job of one person to change a city, but the job of all the people. We cannot expect a magic wand to be waved we need to help, become educated and not sit around waiting for others to take charge!

Congratulations Carmen I can't wait to see what WE as a community can accomplish!

Comment #7 by Bella Hale on 2011 12 02

The unions bought her that seat and were our campaigning for her nonstop, she didn't work hard for it. Don't try to kid anybody with that nonsense.

What do you really expect a union-owned council person that has no experience running a business or managing major finances will do to help rid the city of the $40 million deficit we still have this fiscal year, and the over $100 million deficit we face in the next fiscal year? She never mentioned squat about her ideas on that, just a bunch of community organization crap that doesn't much matter when our city can barely afford to pay the bills.

Ward 9 got bought off, plain and simple.

Comment #8 by Russ Hryzan on 2011 12 02

There has never been a general election in ward 9 for YEARS. It is always determined in the primary. How sad....that most voters thought they voted on primary day and that was the determining vote, they didn't realize there was a general election. How sad...that the leaders of the community threaten the voters to not even acknowledge another point of view. How sad that they don't think for themselves.

Carmen spent $30,000 for a city council seat...wait..... she didn't spend it the Unions did and why? Hmmm muni pensions are the next on the list. Guess they have their vote with Carmen.

The union guys helping her were not from Providence, how about Johnston and N. Providence.... wake up Providence we are in serious trouble when we can't even elect the best candidate.

Ward 9 best Democrat was Rochelle Lee but guess why they wouldn't elect her? Research it yourself.

Comment #9 by Gertrude O' Pell on 2011 12 14

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