Lots of local state candidates: But are voters focused on primary?

Posted 9/7/22

Not in recent years have Warwick voters – both Democrats and Republicans – had so many choices on the primary ballot.

And for a first time in decades, all three district School …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Lots of local state candidates: But are voters focused on primary?


Not in recent years have Warwick voters – both Democrats and Republicans – had so many choices on the primary ballot.

And for a first time in decades, all three district School Committee members are not seeking reelection, meaning a land shift in the 5-member committee. It also means primaries in District 1 (which consists of wards 1, 2 and 3) and District 2 (made up of Ward 4, 5 and 6) since more than two candidates are seeking to represent the districts. The two high vote getters in each of the districts will face off in the General Election in November

Yet, despite all the races in Warwick and statewide, there’s little buzz with the polls opening less than a week away. Compared to two years ago, early voting has been slow. The candidates, especially those who have been door knocking, have noticed a lack of focus, too, although those running for statewide offices have bombarded the air waves.

Excluding the race for the Democratic nomination for the Second Congressional District and statewide offices, and including school committee candidates, there is a total of 27 local candidates on the primary ballot. This doesn’t mean those choosing to vote in the primary will be asked to chose between all 27 candidates. Republicans will have choices to make in Senate District 29 and Senate District 31.

The majority of Democratic contests are for House and Senate seats, underscoring what is Democratic Party control between those in power and Progressive Democrats that have largely rallied under the banner of the RI Political Cooperative. Some claim it is battle for leadership under the guise of a series of programs that have been labeled as essential to moving the state forward, or, depending on your politics, radial and steering the ship of state into the rocks.

The fight over the Democratic nomination in Senate District 29 between Jennifer Rourke and Warwick firefighter and president of the Warwick Firefighters Union, Michael Carreiro, offers a view of the battle being played out as the candidates walk the district and blanket those who have a history of voting in Democratic primaries with attack and counter attack mailers.

Real Democrats

A working mom Rourke calls herself the “only real Democrat” in the race. She promotes affordable healthcare, protecting reproductive rights, creating a fair economy for working families, investing in small business and protecting seniors and veterans.  She labels Carreiro “a Republican in disguise,” accepting donations from anti-choice and NRA backed politicians and being untruthful about his residency. In a flier paid for by RIBCO (RI Brotherhood of Correctional Officers), Rourke is accused of “some really cuckoo ideas” including raising your taxes to fund new social welfare programs, defunding police, defunding police, creating a new 10 percent statewide property tax on small businesses and “changing parole standards to allow murderers like Craig Price to go free.”

Another mailer paid for by the Friends of Mike Carreiro proclaims “Jennifer Rourke and her extremist friends in the RI Political Cooperative have a radical and dangerous agenda for Warwick.” It goes on to cite defunding of police, business tax and Rourke’s endorsement by socialists “who have an extreme agenda that will raise your taxes.”

The same list of progressive ills are cited in a mailer paid for by House District 21 incumbent Camille Vella-Wilkinson who faces a challenge from Capri Catanzaro. The flier reads, “her (Catanzaro’s) extremist friends in the RI Political Cooperative are blatantly lying about Camille Vella-Wilkinson’s Record.”

Mark McKenney in Senate District 30 would be labeled by the Political Cooperative as an insider looking to get back in.

McKenney beat incumbent Jeanine Calkin in 2018. Two years later, Calkin (who worked on the Bernie Sanders campaign in his quest of the party’s presidential nomination) won the seat back.

McKenney isn’t surprised by the strategy of RI Political Cooperative that has adhered to higher minimum wages, taxing the rich and improved social programs.

“These people are talking about a whole new government,” he said. 

He said the co-op has hit all Democrats willing to work with the leadership.

Although not the case in Senate 30 where Marjorie Ann Tudino is running as a Republican, the primary is the race for many Democrats since Republicans have not been able to recruit candidates. But will Democrats turn out?

Will voters turnout?

McKenney believes the statewide and District 2 Congressional race will bring out voters. That hasn’t been the case for early voters. A total of 437 early ballots – both Democrat and Republican – had been cast by Tuesday at 11:30. This lags significantly behind the 2020 elections where in the General Election a third of the votes cast were early ballots. McKenney attributes the high early and mail ballot turnout to the pandemic.

“I expect a better turnout. People aren’t quite as afraid,” he said. Nonetheless, McKenney didn’t disagree with the observation that interest in local races hasn’t ignited as it has in prior primary election contests.”

If anyone can forecast voter turnout it should be Shekarchi who, with the exception of two days this summer (one to attend a wedding and the other because it rained), has walked his district.

“I’m finding a lot of voter apathy. They’re not tuned into the election,” Shekarchi said Sunday taking a break from ringing doorbells to take a cell phone call. Shekarchi hasn’t seen much of his opponent, Anderson, but that hasn’t slowed him down.

“I’m not taking anything for granted,” he said. This past weekend he started walking the district for a second time.

Why the multitude of challengers, what’s this all about?

“It’s anti establishment…blow the system up…they don’t have a positive agenda,” Shekarchi responded.

Calkin, co-founder of the Political Co-op offered a different perspective.

She attributes a lack of focus on the primary election to “burn out.”

“People have had a rough three years with Covid,” she said. Although wheelchair bound, Calkin has been going door-to-door. She’s found people receptive, noting many have walked out to talk with her.

Asked about statements that the co-op is out to destroy the establishment, Calkin said the goal of the co-op “is to help regular people run for office” by assisting them to collect signatures and the filing of forms and reports. 

“Parties want to protect incumbents,” she said, adding, “no own owns a seat.” Co-op members share a platform and she feels many of those objectives are Democratic Party goals that “makes all Democrats.”

The District 1 School Committee race is intense with candidates Shaun Galligan, Frank Brown, William Okerholm and Tara Levasseur vying for the seat.

It’s a three-way race In School Committee District 2 between Steven DiPalma, Leah Hazelwood and Christopher Daigneault.

Ward 1 incumbent councilman William Foley is the only council member facing a primary challenge. He faces Barry Cook.

Warwick voters have choices in the following General Assembly races:

House District 19: Incumbent Joseph McNamara and Stuart Wilson

House District 21: Incumbent Camille Vella-Wilkinson and Capri Catanzaro

House District 22: Incumbent Joseph Solomon Jr. and Zarary Pereira

House District 23: Incumbent K. Joseph Shekarchi and Jacqueline Anderson

Senate District 29: Democrats: Jennifer Rourke and Michael Carreiro

Republicans: Anthony DeLuca II and Christopher Barker

Senate District 30: Incumbent Jeanine Calkin and Mark McKenney

Senate District 31: Democrats Matthew LaMountain and Harrison Tuttle

Republicans: Lisa Marie Morse and John Silvaggio

candidates, primary


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here