Primary election candidates in three of the five House of Representative districts in Southeastern Rhode Island are bracing for a spirited finish, with only a few days left until the election.

All are Democratic primaries, and some clearly pit a growing progressive Democratic wing against more moderate Democrats. That progressive wing is also taking aim at some of the top General Assembly Leadership. Here is a brief view of the races.

District 71 – Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton

This is a race to fill a seat being vacated by Dennis M. Canario. 

Campaign finance reports show clear distinctions between John G. Edwards V, a councilman from Tiverton, and Michielle McGow, who is the only Aquidneck Island candidate among the 24 candidates running under the Rhode Island Political Cooperative (RIPC) banner.

Edwards is business oriented, and, at least on paper, aligned with current General Assembly leadership.  During the last quarter, Edwards raised $5,595, and in the last year, nearly $10,000. Among his contributors are some of the more mainstream Democrats, including Canario ($1,000 last quarter), Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello ($250 last quarter), Edwards father, who is running for reelection in District 70 ($750 during the second quarter).

McGaw, who is a member of the Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee, received $50 from that organization, Rhode Island Working Families ($1,096 in the last quarter), and philanthropist Clay Rockefeller ($1,000 last quarter). As of the last reporting period she had $14,155 in her campaign fund.

Among her expenditures has been more than $1,300 to the Rhode Island Political Cooperative for services from consulting to postage. That group is supporting 24 candidates statewide, from council to senate, with McGaw the only candidate from Aquidneck Island.

The cooperative has a platform that calls for a $15 minimum wage, the Green New Deal, single-payer healthcare, criminal justice reform, affordable housing, quality public education, immigrant rights, and getting money out of politics.

District 72 – Portsmouth, Middletown

In District 72, which includes Portsmouth and Middletown, the incumbent, Terri-Denise Cortvriend is being challenged by former Middletown Town Councilman Christopher T. Semonelli.

Semonelli has pledged to “attack and address budget issues,” focusing on disabilities, education, senior citizens, mental health, and veteran’s affairs.

Cortvriend, who had also served on the Portsmouth School Committee for several years, is a member of the Reform Caucus on House rules.

She lists among her top issues’ climate change (she is co-founder of the Aquidneck Island Climate Caucus), education, and small business.

According to the state Board of Elections, as of the last reporting period, Semonelli had $1,153 in his campaign fund and Cortvriend had $11,441.

District 74 – Jamestown, Middletown

Middletown Town Councilman Henry F. Lombardi, Jr. is challenging incumbent state Rep. Deborah Ruggiero.

Ruggiero, who had nearly $50,000 in her campaign account, is a small business owner who has worked to eliminate regulations and championed affordable healthcare.

She has supported climate change, including renewable energy.

In the upcoming session she said she will work to bring fiber-optic to Aquidneck Island, re-introduce her 2020 enabling legislation that helps cities and towns handle the short-term rental crisis that is impacting many residential neighborhoods. 

She lists education, the economy, specifically helping the embattled hospital and tourism industry.  

Lombardi, who has spent six years on the Middletown Town Council and 20 in law enforcement, is committed to what he says is a “platform of Equity, Stability and a Purposeful Plan for the future for the State and the District.”

He is an advocate for small business, lists education and the environment among his priorities.

As of the last reporting period, he had $3,074 in his campaign fund.


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