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Monday, July 21, 2014

Did Cameron Ennis of Charlestown qualify to run for state Senate?

Candidate’s error results in low signature count 
My Bad Oops animated GIFBy Will Collette

The race for Senate District 34, currently represented by Sen. Catherine Cool Rumsey, is either going to be a three-way race or a head-to-head battle depending on the belated final tally of signatures on nomination papers. District 34 includes most of the northern half of Charlestown.

As of Monday afternoon, according to one of the contenders, that final tally is far from final.

In addition to incumbent Democrat Senator Cathie Cool Rumsey and endorsed Republican Elaine Morgan of Hopkinton, Cameron Ennis of Ennis Road in Charlestown declared his intention to run as an independent. Even before he filed, he set up the framework of a nice looking website (click here) to promote his candidacy.

The first key test for candidates for elected office is getting enough signatures on nomination petitions (100 for candidates for State Senator) to qualify for the ballot. The reasoning is that if you can’t get 100 valid signatures, you don’t have much of a chance to mount a credible campaign.

As of Sunday, it had appeared that Ennis failed that test, collecting only 49 signatures, less than half the number required to run.

However, after I e-mailed Ennis for comment and for him to explain what went wrong, he sent me this message:

Just this afternoon we won an appeal to the Board of Elections for the towns of Richmond, Hopkington [SIC], Exeter, and West Greenwich to approve 51 more signatures. Unfortunately, I turned in all of my signatures to Charlestown; however, having relied on the town clerk acting as a gov't official by accepting all of my nomination forms, the board ruled that the remaining towns have 72 additional hrs to approve the remaining signatures needed to get on the ballot.
I will be gladly to comment more in the future, but as a recent attorney of all of five minutes (June 3rd), I am extremely pleased with today's result.
Common Cause seemed to disapprove Ennis's actions
Under the state election rules, candidates running for an office that covers multiple municipalities must collect the signatures from each city and town separately and turn them in to the correct Board of Canvassers for each town.

Senate District 34 includes not just Charlestown where Ennis lives, but also Richmond, Hopkinton, Exeter and West Greenwich. 

However, Ennis gave all his forms to Charlestown Town Clerk Amy Weinreich, assuming she would handle the distribution. Of course, that’s not what the rules say, but according to Ennis, he caught a break from the state Board of Elections who have apparently allowed him a partial do-over.

The election rules say (on page 10 of the official candidates’ manual) that candidates must have separate sheets for each municipality in the district but Ennis apparently had everyone sign the same sheets, regardless of where they live.

Everyone is supposed to follow the same set of rules. The way I was brought up, it's your fault if you fail to R.T.F.M. Sort of the same way it's on you if you don't want to ask for directions.

Ennis has roots in Charlestown through his father Bruce. He is a recent graduate of Ohio Northern University where he studied law and is listed as a member of the RI Bar Association. Bruce Ennis is a well-known Charlestown Republican who ran for town office in 2008.

Sen. Cathie Cool Rumsey has an impressive
freshman record
Senator Cathie Cool Rumsey wasn’t sure whether she would prefer a two or three person race. This will be her first time running for re-election. 

Every incumbent loves to run unopposed (ask Sen. Dennis Algiere who represents the southern half of Charlestown how it feels to be Senator-for-Life).

Some incumbents like three-way races because it dilutes the “Anybody But You” vote. But since a three-way race also takes some votes away from the incumbent, some prefer a head-to-head.

Regardless, Cathie had a remarkably successful first term and will have a solid record of achievement to take into the general election.

Cameron Ennis is 33 years old. He, his wife and baby are living with his father here in Charlestown. Although Ennis’ website was set up with places to put his background and history, beliefs and reasons for running, none of those links contain any content. 

As he notes in his e-mail, he just became a lawyer. I hope that when Ennis begins to actually practice the law, he reads the directions before he does his first case.