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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Rhode Island Democratic convention elects party regulars despite challenges

Plenty of drama, no surprises at Rhode Island Democratic Party State Committee Meeting

Moira Walsh and Teresa Tanzi
Some of those who were challenging the incumbent Rhode Island Democratic Party (RIDPState Committee members were announced ahead of time, a few came as a surprise. 

The purpose of the meeting was to elect the members of the RIDP State Executive Committee and to approved the new State Party Platform. 

The nine positions voted on were for Committee Chair, First Vice-Chair, Second Vice-Chair, Third Vice-Chair, Secretary, Corresponding Secretary, Recording Secretary, Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer.

The Sunday night meeting, held at the Cranston Portuguese Club, was packed with about 300 people, but only about 172 of them were able and willing to vote. 

As roll call votes were taken over the course of the evening, more and more people left, decreasing the number of voters. 

In the last roll call vote only 122 people voted, just over half of those eligible to vote in Party elections.

All eyes were on the race for RIDP Chair and Secretary. On Friday, Representative Moira Walsh (Democrat, District 3, Providence) challenged Representative Joseph McNamara (Democrat, District 19, Warwick) for the position of Chair of the Party. 

The final vote was for McNamara, 144 to 28.

Also, Representative Teresa Tanzi (Democrat, District 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown) challenged conservative Representative Arthur Corvese (Democrat, District 55, North Providence) for the position of Secretary of the Party. The vote went to Corvese, 126 – 40.

Neither won their challenge as the vast amount of Democrats in the room went with centrist or conservative candidates.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I was also in attendance as a voting member for House District 36. I saw the contested votes as mainly a clash between party regulars and challengers from various other factions within the party, and not always Left versus Right. I voted with roughly 30-40 other delegates for most (but not all) the challengers. I was especially proud to vote for Rep. Teresa Tanzi for Secretary. I loved her speech which included a great punch line that she recognized she had a better chance of winning the Powerball than winning this vote.

Steve covered the entire meeting and you can watch the videos of all the speeches on Steve's great website (CLICK HERE). 

He noted that as the hours passed, people left since each of the many roll call votes involved calling out almost 200 people's names. As a diabetic at an event  where no food was served, I would have left too had I not packed a sandwich. I know I wasn 't the only person in the room with diabetes or other conditions that made attending a long meeting problematic.  - Will Collette  

RIDP First Vice-Chair pitted Representative Lauren Carson (Democrat, District 75, Newport) versus incumbent Representative Grace Diaz (Democrat, District 11, Providence). The vote went to Diaz, 134-31.

Central Falls Mayor James Diossa ran unopposed to hold on to RIDP Second Vice-Chair.

RIDP Third Vice-Chair Lisa Tomaso also ran unopposed, as did Ann Gooding for RIDP Corresponding Secretary.

RIDP Recording Secretary was contested race pitting party regular Steve McCauly (former Burrillville town chair) against Portsmouth Town Councilor Linda Ujifusa for Recording Secretary. The vote went to McCauley, 91-36.

Ann Livingston rose to nominate Liz Beretta Perik was nominated as RIDP Treasurer. In an unexpected move J Mark Ryan rose to nominate Shawna Rihnai for RIDP Treasurer. The vote went to Perik, 98-24.

The last position up for election was RIDP Assistant Treasurer where incumbent Marsha Reback, former head of the RI Federation of Teacher, sought re-election. She drew an unexpected challenge from former Rhode Island State Senator Jeanine Calkin.

The vote was done via a show of hands. Reback was declared the winner.

Finally, delegates voted on the RIDP Party Platform.

RIDP Executive Director Tolulope Kevin Olasanoye gave a quick explanation about the newly completed and approved RIDP Party Platform. The Platform was quickly approved by voice vote.

The meeting was quickly closed before two members of the caucus had a chance to introduce.
 new business. this cause some consternation and confusion.