10 Noteworthy Things About RI's 2013 Election

Nov 6, 2013

Who says off-year elections aren't interesting? Some random news and observations:

Shelby Maldonado, councilor-elect in Central Falls
Credit Special to RIPR

1. Women candidates came up big in Central Falls, albeit in uncontested races, winning five of seven City Council seats. The extent of this kind of female presence is unusual in RI municipalities, although four of five Barrington town councilors are women.

2. Central Falls Councilor-elect Shelby Maldonado is the state's first Guatemalan-American elected official. While Dominicans set the pace as Rhode Island Latinos became more politically active over the last 12 or so years, James Diossa signaled the rise of Colombian-Americans when he won office last year, and Jorge Elorza is another candidate with a Guatemalan heritage to watch as he seeks the mayor's office in Providence.

3. Central Falls Councilor-elect Hugo Figueroa, who had a contested race, is Rhode Island's first Salvadoran-American elected official.

4. Leo Fontaine won election as the Republican mayor of Woonsocket as the embodiment of change in 2009. This time around, Fontaine -- whether he deserved it or not -- was the face of the city's fiscal woes, leading to a big win for state Representative Lisa Baldelli-Hunt. Fontaine didn't run a particularly aggressive campaign, and LBH's runaway primary win set the tone for the general election. John Ward, the articulate and thoughtful GOP council president in Woonsocket, also got swept out of office.

5. As I've noted before, 2013 marks the end of off-year elections in Central Falls and Woonsocket, due to charter changes in those communities. Advocates of small-d democracy say moving to even-year elections is a good thing, since local political machines can exponentially magnify their power when turnout is super low.

6. Speaking of low turnout: Justin Katz notes how just 11 percent of the people of Woonsocket elected the city's new mayor. See item #5.

7. Massachusetts voters rejected two casino proposals, one near Boston and the other in the western part of the Bay State. This gives Rhode Island at least a brief reprieve on the threat from the north to its third-largest source of state revenue.

8. House Speaker Gordon Fox and other reps were on hand for Baldelli-Hunt's big win in the Blackstone Valley.

9. While Lincoln Chafee's pending departure from office marks a wane of dynastic politics on one front, Baldelli-Hunt steps it up in the Blackstone Valley, taking over a job once held by her uncle. The Baldellis rounded out my 2012 list of RI's top political families.

10. Other stuff: Lorne Adrain's in the race for mayor in Providence; East Providence continues as a hotbed of local political intrigue; State Representative Grace Diaz is attracting a lot of attention from declared and undeclared candidates in time for a fundraiser tonight at Wes' Rib House, owned, of course, by Providence City Council President and mayoral candidate Michael Solomon.