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Sunday, July 19, 2020

Rosters set for Charlestown elections in November

CCA faces serious challenge to its years of domination over Charlestown
By Will Collette

Carney forest a.jpg
Town Council Vice-Chair Deb Carney tops the ticket of
candidates seeking to end CCA Party control of Charlestown
The signatures on the nomination papers have been checked and certified and we now know who will be running for Charlestown town government.

Since 2008, the political action committee, the secretive Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) has controlled town government in Charlestown. 

The CCA Party, originally assembled to oust town curmudgeon Jim Mageau from the town council presidency, has become an organization run for the benefit of wealthy non-resident landowners who contribute the majority of its funds.

It has been the standard bearer for institutional racism against outsiders – “people from Providence” – and against our own neighbors, the Narragansett Indian Tribe. CLICK HERE for more details.

They paid little or no attention to economic troubles suffered by the working families in town caused by the 2008 Great Recession and has been equally indifferent to our Depression-level unemployment pandemic-driven unemployment rate.

The CCA Party’s top priority has been to spend taxpayer dollars land acquisitions where we pay twice as much as the property is worth to feed Planning Commissar Ruth Platner’s insatiable appetite for open space.

The CCA Party consistently follows the “pay to play” approach to government where if you want favors, you’d better demonstrate your support for the CCA. They’ve been playing transactional politics ("you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours") longer than Donald Trump.

Each of the years they have been in control, the CCA Party has raised Charlestown taxes, either through a raise in the rate paid per valuation or through increased tax assessments. This year, the drop in the tax rate was more than offset for many middle-class taxpayers, especially North of One, by higher assessments.

This year they face a serious slate of candidates for Town Council. Six challengers have been certified to run against the CCA Party slate. Five of the six challengers have been endorsed by Charlestown Residents United (CRU). The three Democrats on that slate have been endorsed by the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee. There are two challengers running as Republicans. And there is one independent running entirely on his own.

Here are the Town Council challengers:
  • Incumbent Council Vice-Chair Deb Carney (D + CRU) who turned in 122 valid signatures (50 needed);
  • Jodi Frank (D + CRU), 107 signatures;
  • Scott Keeley (D + CRU), 121 signatures;
  • Grace Klinger (R + CRU), 119 signatures;
  • Stephen Stokes (R + CRU), 122 signatures.
The challenger slate

The CCA Party made a big deal about how “each of our candidates got over 100 valid signatures” when only 50 were needed. First, that’s what you do – you collect more signatures than you need assuming some signatures might be disqualified for not exactly matching voter registration records. Second, the challenger slate averaged close to 120.

Also qualifying for the ballot by the skin of his teeth is political newcomer Jacob Wolfgang (independent and unaffiliated) with exactly 50 signatures, as required.

Two CRU candidates running for the non-partisan Planning Commission also qualified. Patricia Stamps had 135 signatures and Howard Stephens had 112 signatures.

Charlie Beck also qualified in his re-election bid for Town Moderate. Charlie is the owner of the Mini-Super and is running on the CRU slate.

There are no primary challenges at the town level, although there will be a primary contest among both the Republicans and Democrats over the US House District 2 seat held by Rep. Jim Langevin (D). 

US Senate Jack Reed (D) is running for re-election. He has no primary challenger and an unknown Republican running against him on November 3.

More important than the number of signatures over the minimum on nomination papers is….money.
At this point in the election cycle, the cash on hand shown by Charlestown’s political players is small.

Cash balances as of March 31, 2020:
  • Charlestown Residents United (CRU): $1,927.09
  • Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party): $1,394.04
  • Charlestown Democratic Town Committee (CDTC): $837.71
  • Charlestown Republican Town Committee (inactive, last filing in 2018): $9.17
The CCA Party counts on major donor checks coming in around now through October from their non-resident supporters. They can usually bring in about $15,000 in the last months of the campaign which they will use to fill your mailbox with mailers and cover Charlestown roads with signs. 

I've purposely omitted naming the CCA Party's candidates since they will be more than able to use their out-of-state money to promote their own people.

Charlestown Democrats and the CRU use a more grassroots approach but go into each election cycle knowing the CCA Party will be able to raise more money given the wealth of its base.

The next campaign finance reports will be filed around July 31 and cover income and expenses up to June 30.

Important dates:

Statewide primary for US Representative, District 2, held by Rep. Jim Langevin, is September 8.

You must be registered to vote by August 9 with your registration showing your party choice so you can vote in that party’s primary.

You WILL NOT receive an automatic application for a mail-in ballot for the September 8 primary. You will probably receive a postcard notice. 

No decision yet on how mail-in ballots will work for the November 3 General Election.

You can download the application for a mail-in ballot for the Primary HERE – fill it in on-line or print it and do it by hand. on-line and then print it. You must return it to the Board of Canvassers for your town (in Charlestown, at Town Hall) no later than August 18, 4 PM. Concern about the pandemic is considered a valid reason for voting by mail.

The General Election is November 3 and, yes, this may be the most important election in this country’s history. 

You must be registered by October 4. Applications for mail-in ballots must be received by October 13.

Here is a notice from RI Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea about balloting: