Former Massachusetts congressman and U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill coined the famous phrase: “All politics is local.”
In Rhode Island, local politics tend to be especially political.
The race for Rhode Island’s District 42 State Representative seat has already garnered attention for featuring two family members — an incumbent versus his nephew — competing for the Democratic nomination.
Incumbent State Rep. Edward T. Cardillo Jr. (Democrat representing District 42-Cranston, Johnston) will face his nephew Dennis Cardillo Jr. in this year’s Democratic Primary.
Before voters cast their ballots, a public hearing this week will possibly determine whether the challenger has broken the law, and whether he lives at the address he declared on election documents.
On Thursday, Dennis Cardillo Jr. will defend himself at a hearing triggered when his uncle filed a complaint with the Johnston Board of Canvassers earlier this week.
“I have filed a formal complaint with the Johnston Board of Canvassers challenging the residency of Dennis Cardillo Jr, who is running for State Representative in District 42 Johnston/Cranston,” Rep. Ed Cardillo said in a press release distributed widely on Monday. “The formal hearing, under penalty of perjury, will be held within a few days. In 2020 the voters of District 42 elected me their State Representative. I swore an oath that included a promise to ‘protect and defend the laws of the State Of Rhode Island.’”
Rep. Cardillo alleges that his nephew, and opponent, resides outside the district.
“During this election season, I became aware that a declared candidate for State Representative, Dennis Cardillo Jr., and his family, do not live where they declared on his Declaration of Candidacy, made under the penalty of perjury,” Rep. Cardillo said.
The sitting state representative said that he enlisted a former Secret Service and Treasury agent to investigate the matter. He alleges the investigator discovered: “Neither Dennis nor his family live in Johnston as stated in that declaration.”
The investigator claims to have proven via photographs and surveillance that Dennis Cardillo has been residing at Chateau Chatillon, 30 Oaklawn Ave., Cranston, from June 8-14, 2022.
Dennis Cardillo said that residence refers to his mother’s address, where he has been helping her rehabilitate since she underwent recent medical procedures. He denies the allegations made by his uncle, and has alleged both “stalking” and “harassment” by the sitting legislator.
“On June 27, 2022, Dennis Cardillo executed Rhode Island Declaration of Candidacy form listing a home address of 1757 Plainfield Pike, Johnston,” Rep. Cardillo alleges in his press release, adding that his opponent’s wife, Argilda Jackelin Cardillo, also listed the same address for her candidacy for the state’s Representative District Committee.
Rep. Cardillo claims to “have proven via surveillance that Dennis Cardillo and Argilda Jackelin Cardillo are residing at Chateau Chatillon, 30 Oaklawn Ave., Cranston,” from July 12-14.
“They both appear to be in violation of RIGL §17-23-17 (Violations with respect to Elections), section (a)(2),” Rep. Cardillo claims in his press release. “The private investigator turned this information over to the RI State Police several weeks ago who also conducted their own surveillance in conjunction with the private investigator. Documents were subpoenaed. To my dismay no action was forthcoming from the State Police. There is a reluctance to interfere in elections.”
Rhode Island State Police will not confirm or deny ongoing investigations, or investigations that do not result in criminal charges.
“I want to stress that this is not simply a ‘family political squabble,’” Rep. Cardillo insists. “It is much more than that. I have unequivocal physical evidence, photographs and video conducted by a former Secret Service and Treasury agent, which prove without a doubt that Dennis Cardillo Jr. lives in Cranston and by filing a fraudulent Declaration of Candidacy may have committed an election felony.”
The incumbent’s nephew, and political opponent, claims Rep. Cardillo has been stalking and harassing his family. He also claims the state rep may have “racial” motivations.
“My wife and I feel as though this is a hate crime since my wife is Hispanic and our child is mixed,” Dennis Cardillo wrote via email on Monday. “We have numerously seen Edward Cardillo sit across the street for hours at Walmart … which appears to be intimidation and harassment. We have in fact lived in the district the entire time as required by law, and after all the (stalking) and mental anguish state representative Edward Cardillo put on us we moved to a new place in the district in Johnston that has private security. Again we feel this is a form of a hate crime against my wife who is a person of color and we will make this known to all news agencies.”
Dennis Cardillo insists that he cares “deeply about the community,” and decided to run against his uncle because he feels he can do a better job. Deep riffs exist in the family, tied to past litigation and business interests. However, the younger Cardillo said he was shocked when he heard about his uncle’s allegations.
“At this moment we will be contacting the RI State House to let them know the state rep is harassing members of his own community and request the state to reprimand his actions,” Dennis Cardillo said Monday. “We will be holding off on the police report for the moment unless he continues to follow and harass my wife and child. We do not want to be involved in his negative actions. We also have several copies of bills in our names to our address in Johnston District 42 if needed. We will not let his negativity deter us. We will continue to campaign each and every day and stay positive!”
The elder Cardillo, the incumbent state representative, insists he’s watching out for his constituents.
“The people of my District in Johnston and Cranston deserve to have someone represent them who really live(s) in District 42, from which he is running for office,” Rep. Cardillo said in his press release. “To allow this allegedly fraudulent election deception to go unchallenged makes a mockery of our election laws. Unwillingness to get involved in elections, by law enforcement agencies or state and municipal election agencies, is not a reason to allow potential election felonies to go unpunished.”
Prior to the hearing, Rep. Cardillo predicted little action.
“I have little confidence that the Johnston Board of Canvassers will act upon this complaint in an unbiased manner given the political pressures that will undoubtedly be brought by the political power brokers controlling Johnston,” he said. “I am an outspoken and uncontrollable voice for the people who cannot and will not be silenced by the political machine in Johnston. I will immediately appeal any adverse ruling from the Johnston Board to the State Board of Elections and if necessary to the courts. I will not back down to Johnston or State corrupt political machinations.”
Rep. Cardillo drew parallels to the conviction of former District 13 Providence state Rep. John Carnevale, who was indicted in January 2017. Carnevale served time after he was given a five-year sentence for perjury, following a plea deal. Carnevale was released from prison early, but removed from the ballot.
“This also was the case in the past Rep. Carnevale residency investigation,” Rep. Cardillo said. “It was after the press raised the issue with the public that Mr. Carnevale was investigated and charged.”
“By going public with my complaint, I hope to bring the weight of the press on ALL the agencies who have the duty to investigate election felonies in an unbiased and timely manner,” writes Rep. Ed Cardillo. “Political power should not play a role in those investigations. Shining a public light on the election violations of Dennis Cardillo Jr., hopefully will make the agencies think twice about their duties and oaths of office.”
Rep. Cardillo said he plans to make all the “evidence gathered, photographs, videos, documents available to the press upon request,” but “asked that nothing be released publicly until after the Johnston hearing, or if the Johnston hearing is being unduly and politically delayed, so as not to give Dennis Cardillo Jr. advanced knowledge of all the evidence against him until the hearing under oath.”
“If the Johnston hearing is being politically delayed, I will release all evidence to the media,” he warned. “I also plan to release all evidence gathered to the voters of my Representative District 42 so that they may draw their own conclusions. Hopefully with the media and public scrutiny the voters of my Representative District 42 will be able to vote for the candidate of their choice who lives in Johnston District 42.”
Dennis Cardillo has a long list of questions for his uncle.
“How can Ed justify taking pictures of my wife as soon as June 8 (in his statement) when she didn’t even put her name in for the ballot until June 29?” he asked. “That right there spells out stalking and abuse of power/taxpayer dollars to me. He was blatantly following myself and my family roughly a month before we put our names in. That is most definitely illegal.”
The challenger repeatedly questioned his uncle’s motivation.
“Again we want to stress that my wife feels this is form of bias based on her color since she is a woman of color running for the State Rep Committee and we are in a bi-racial relationship,” he said. “As far as we know, Ed Cardillo has not filed any complaints amongst any of the other several individuals who put (their) name in for the Rep committee or against any other white couple democrats running for office.”
Dennis Cardillo asked three final questions of his uncle (he hopes to get answers at the hearing).
“Why does he want to continue hurting members of his family?” he asked. “Is this legal what he (is) doing to us? Are his actions considered defamation and election fraud?”
Incumbent State Rep. Edward T. Cardillo Jr. will likely face his nephew Dennis Cardillo Jr., and another candidate, fellow Democrat Kelsey Kristine Coletta, in the District 42 Democratic Primary. Republican Harold K. Borders has also declared his candidacy and will likely face the victor of the primary race in November’s General Election.
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