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Friday, September 11, 2020

South County progressive incumbents survive primary challenges

Progressive wave builds across the state

By Will Collette 

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Three excellent South Kingstown incumbent legislators weathered challenges in the Democratic primary last Tuesday. With all the mail-in ballots counted by Thursday night, Sen. Sue Sosnowski, Rep. Teresa Tanzi and Rep. Kathy Fogarty emerged victorious. 

Teresa won by 71% to 29%. Kathy Fogarty beat her perennial rival Spencer Dickinson by 76% to 24%. Sue Sosnowski faced an opponent from the RI Political Cooperative. Matt Brown’s group targeted Sue for some inexplicable reason even though Sue has a sterling record on the environment (and chairs the powerful Senate Environment Committee). 

Anyway, Sue won her contest by 20 points. 

None of the General Assembly members representing Charlestown had primary challengers. Sen. Dennis Algiere is opposed by a faces a write-in challenger, Julius Dunn. Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi has no opponent. 

Sen. Elaine Morgan who represents the northern half of Charlestown (and is also one of the most radical right-wingers in the Assembly) had no primary challenger but does face Democrat Jennifer Douglas on November 3. Jennifer is backed by the RI Political Cooperative and is endorsed by a long list of organizations, including the Sierra Club, RI Democratic Women’s Caucus and the United Auto Workers. 

Jennifer did not have a primary opponent. 

In Charlestown’s Democratic primary ballot, the only contested election was Rep. Jim Langevin versus newcomer Dylan Conley. 

Around the state, there were many key legislative races, such as the challenge to Senate President Dominick Ruggerio. Ruggerio fended off progressive challenger Leonard Cioe by less than 10 points (54.7% to 45.3%). 

Several of the senior Dems on his team were not so fortunate. Senate conservative elder Harold Metts, author of the state’s voter ID law and religion-based opponent of women’s right to choose and LGBT rights, was trounced by a 60-40 margin by Tiara Mack, a young African American woman who works for Planned Parenthood. 

Sen. Betty Crowley of Central Falls-Pawtucket was beaten in a three-way primary by 10 points by progressive Jonathon Acosta. My sister lives in Crowley’s district and is delighted to see her go. 

Sen. William Conley was knocked out by progressive Cynthia Mendes by 62% to 34%. Conley’s son Dylan was also trounced by US Representative Jim Langevin who beat him by a three to one margin. 

Senior Conley lost lots of votes as the champion for the highly unpopular plan to redevelop the Metacom country club. I suspect it'll be an interesting Thanksgiving dinner at the Conley house after both father and son got shredded in the political wood-chipper.

In all, 10 Democratic incumbents lost their seats in the Democratic primary. Only one of those losses was by a notable progressive, Rep. Moira Walsh. Walsh has been at the top of House Speaker Nick Mattiello’s hit list and did get beaten by Nathan Biah by 65% to 35%. 

In a classy move, she not only congratulated her opponent but noted that he – as an immigrant and person of color – was probably the more appropriate person to represent District 3 in Providence, given its demographics. You don’t see that very often. 

Just about all of Rhode Island’s media saw the progressives’ advances as the big story of the primary. I see it as a hopeful sign for the November 3 general election from top to bottom.