Democratic disaster at the polls in South County
A version of this article also ran in Rhode Island’s Future here.
While there was jubilation at the state Democratic Party’s election night party over their biggest sweep since 1960, that mood was not shared by Democrats across most of South County.
However, from Exeter to Westerly, Democrats, and especially progressive Democrats, took an awful beating in General Assembly and Town Council races. Majorities in several South County towns also shifted from blue to red in their votes for state offices.
Since I started living in South County in 2002 and covering local politics here at Progressive Charlestown, I had enjoyed watching what seemed to be a steady shift from the region’s historic Swamp Yankee conservatism to more progressive politics. South County sent a high proportion of solid Democrats to the State House and voted mostly Blue in state and national races.
But that changed on November 4.
We lost three terrific progressives – my own state Representative Donna Walsh, Sen. Cathie Cool Rumsey and Rep. Larry Valencia. Each of them faced appallingly unqualified opponents. Donna Walsh lost to a radical “Tenther” who doesn’t even seem to live in the District. Cathie Cool Rumsey lost to Hopkinton’s honorific Town Sheriff who was caught using her uniform to impersonate a police officer.
|Voters traded three great legislators for a bag full of wingnuts|
Larry Valencia lost to a guy whose only previous experience was running as a delegate to the Republican National Convention as a delegate for Ron Paul – and who came in fifth out of five.
In Charlestown, we were totally crushed, losing every single elected office in the town to a group called the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party), an off-shoot of the RI Statewide Coalition. If you mixed the Tea Party with the Nature Conservancy and the worst imaginable rich people’s homeowners association you can imagine, you’d get something that looks like the CCA.
The CCA Party gets more than 60% of its funding from out of state. They provide vacation property owners with the ability to vote with their checkbooks in local elections. The CCA Party has increasingly put Charlestown on a “pay to play” basis where the attention you get from town government is in proportion to the amount you donate to the CCA Party.
But those of us in Charlestown were not alone in our misery.