House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi pulled up the corner of his T-shirt and wiped the sweat from his brow. He was about to approach another house on Villa Avenue in his quest for reelection to the …
House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi pulled up the corner of his T-shirt and wiped the sweat from his brow. He was about to approach another house on Villa Avenue in his quest for reelection to the House District 23 seat. It was Saturday afternoon. It was at least 90 degrees and the sunbaked yards of the neighborhood of capes were dry and brown. The street was quiet. If there were people here, they had to be inside beside an air conditioner or in a backyard pool if they had one.
Shekarchi faces a primary contest from Jacqueline Anderson. And should he win, he will face Dana Traversie who is running as a Republican in the General Election. Shekarchi isn’t leaving anything to chance. He’s blitzed those district residents who have a history of voting in Democratic primaries with mailers; he’s advertised in the Beacon; he’s gotten up signs at strategic locations and handed out lawn signs.
On Saturday he was joined by Mark McKenney, who is vying to recapture his Senate District 30 seat from Jeanine Calkin and Governor Dan McKee who from the polls faces a tough challenge from Nellie Gorbea. Also, out to win the party’s nomination in the Sept. 13 primary are Helena Foulkes, Matt Brown and Luis Daniel Muñoz.
“You get a trifecta,” McKenney told a woman who came to her door after the trio wedged palm cards into the door jams of the four previous houses. There was life in the neighborhood and all three candidates welcomed the opportunity to come face-to-face with a voter. The woman was polite and listened as Shekarchi reminded her of the primary and asked if she would consider voting for him. The woman was noncommittal and opened the screen door to take the information she was being handed by the three candidates.
As they left, Shekarchi asked, “where to next?”
His campaign manager Emily Martineau had the answer. The next resident with a history of voting in Democratic primaries lived a couple of houses away. The pattern was repeated with Shekarchi knocking on the door.
“I was just watching Newsmakers,” said Bryan Jennings with the family dog straining to greet the visitors from behind the screen door. He knows Shekarchi and without hesitation declared, “you definitely have my vote.” McKee said he could use his vote, too as did McKenney.
Shekarchi and McKenney face progressive candidates as does McKee, but not as directly because of the number of candidates in the Democratic race for the party’s nomination. They needed only to cross the street to face the question what they would do to be inclusive of progressive issues.
They came face to face with Matt Cianci, so far the only neighborhood resident to be outside in the heat. He was working on a log surrounded by wood chips under an open shed. He was carving something, but at this point it looked like it could be a cane.
He immediately sized up this troop of visitors – three candidates, two campaign aides, a couple of Shekarchi volunteers and a reporter. He was ready to talk about government programs, current events and the shortcomings of society.
“I’m very progressive,” he declared. He questioned why a “bunch of white guys” owned most of the property and ran things when women of color, minorities and blue collar workers are left out.
“How has our democracy helped them?” he asked. Cianci called it “a conservative economy.”
“I’ve done a lot to move the progressive needle,” said Shekarchi. He cited legislation to improve access to affordable housing, investments in education and elimination of the car tax. McKenney said it’s easy to base conclusions on appearance, observing he’s one of the “grey, pale and male” candidates. He went on to emphasize his willingness to meet with people and receptiveness to new ideas and differing points of view. He called it essential to democracy.
McKee said he has worked to “lower hurtles” for minorities and to make government more inclusive. He told of just having attended a Jamaican festival in Providence. Then the candidates had questions for Cianci. He said he is a social worker which he went on to define as a mental health administrator in Massachusetts.
He was asked about his carving and Cianci told of how he collects wood from locally felled trees to make spoons. The governor asked to see an example of his work. Cianci asked for a moment as he left the yard to enter the house. He returned with his wife, two children and a canvas bag from which he pulled a spoon and gave it to Shekarchi. He handed out spoons to his visitors, which surely had to be a first for the three candidates. He introduced his wife and kids from over the wire fence. There were smiles and hellos. The party moved on to the next house.
Shekarchi was sliding palm cards in the door when a woman appeared. She apologized for not being more prompt.
“Cleaning,” she explained. She identified Shekarchi and said she likes what he is doing. Shekarchi didn’t push, but inquired if she would consider putting a lawn sign in the corner of her yard.
“Sure,” she said.
“They say signs don’t vote,” Shekarchi said as he erected the blue and white sign.
“But people who have them do.”
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