Democrats add two House seats to vast R.I. leg­isla­tive ma­jor­ity

Repub­li­cans blame tough na­tional en­vi­ron­ment


PROVIDENCE — Rhode Is­land Democrats have ex­tended their dom­i­nance over the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, gain­ing two more seats for the start of the leg­isla­tive ses­sion in Jan­uary.

The num­ber of Repub­li­cans in the 75-mem­ber House is ex­pected to drop from 11 to nine, pro­vided mail bal­lot re­sults don’t change any of Tues­day’s elec­tion re­sults.

Rep. Cale Ke­able was the only Demo­cratic in­cum­bent in the Gen­eral Assem­bly who lost Tues­day. Ke­able was re­cently re­moved from his post as chair­man of the pow­er­ful House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, af­ter a month­sold email sur­faced in which an­other law­maker ac­cused him of sex­ual ha­rass­ment. Ke­able’s lawyer has de­nied that he ever ha­rassed Demo­cratic Rep. Kather­ine Kazar­ian.

Bran­don Bell, chair­man of the Rhode Is­land Repub­li­can Party, ran for a House seat but lost to Demo­crat Alex Marsza­lkowski. Bell told WPRO-AM he feels beaten and sad and likely won’t run for chair­man again in March. He said the state party’s mes­sage about good govern­ment and eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity of­ten gets drowned out by na­tional is­sues, par­tic­u­larly since the 2016 elec­tion. He was told by vot­ers that they just can’t vote Repub­li­can this year.

Democrats beat Repub­li­can in­cum­bents An­to­nio Giar­russo, who was elected to the House in 2012, Robert Lan­cia, who was elected in 2014 and Ken­neth Men­donca, who was elected in 2016. A Demo­crat also won the seat that was held by re­tir­ing House Mi­nor­ity Leader Pa­tri­cia Mor­gan.

Repub­li­cans gained the seat that was held by Ke­able and Demo­cratic Rep. Jay O’Grady’s seat. O’Grady didn’t seek re-elec­tion in a dis­trict that in­cludes parts of Lin­coln and Pawtucket.

Ke­able was first elected to rep­re­sent a dis- trict in Burrillville and Glo­ces­ter in 2010.

Repub­li­can Rep. Blake Filippi, who was un­op­posed, said the “na­tional tem­per­a­ture was against Repub­li­cans.”

“We are a Demo­cratic state and I think af­fected us,” he said Wed­nes­day. “Many times, peo­ple con­nect state Repub­li­cans to the na­tional party. But when you look at the de­meanor and poli­cies Repub­li­cans pro­mote here, we’re dis­con­nected. We’re more like the John Chafee Repub­li­cans than the Don­ald Trump Repub­li­cans, but we were up against those head­winds.”

Chafee was a pop­u­lar Rhode Is­land gov­er­nor and U.S. sen­a­tor who took a mod­er­ate stance on many is­sues. Filippi said House Repub­li­cans will con­tinue ad­vo­cat­ing for their po­si­tions on how to fix the state, “clearly and loudly.”

In the state Se­nate, Democrats are ex­pected to hold 33 of 38 seats in Jan­uary. That’s the same as the start of this year’s leg­isla­tive ses­sion. Repub­li­cans cur­rently hold four Se­nate seats. For­mer Repub­li­can Sen. Ni­cholas Ket­tle was charged with ex­tort­ing sex from a page in Fe­bru­ary and re­signed. Ket­tle has de­nied all charges. A Repub­li­can won that seat Tues­day.

Democrats also won all statewide and con­gres­sional of­fices. Demo­cratic Gov. Gina Rai­mondo, U.S. Sen. Shel­don White­house, and Reps. James Langevin and David Ci­cilline were re-elected. Demo­cratic Lt. Gov. Dan Mc­Kee, Sec­re­tary of State Nel­lie Gor­bea and Trea­surer Seth Magaziner also earned a sec­ond term. Demo­crat Peter Neronha, a for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney, was elected Rhode Is­land at­tor­ney gen­eral, suc­ceed­ing the term-lim­ited Demo­cratic in­cum­bent.

Demo­cratic House Speaker Ni­cholas Mat­tiello was nar­rowly re-elected in Cranston.

Emily Sam­sel, a spokes­woman for the Rhode Is­land Demo­cratic Party, said the Demo­cratic sweep “sends a mes­sage to Wash­ing­ton that Don­ald Trump does not speak for us.”

Repub­li­can Al­lan Fung, who lost to Rai­mondo, said in his con­ces­sion speech that it’s not easy “to take on a ma­chine.”

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