WOONSOCKET – State Representative Jon Brien, upset by Democrat Stephen Casey in the September 11 primary, was unable to provide an answer this morning when asked to cite the last successful write-in candidate for the General Assembly. He instead turned for inspiration to the write-in won two years ago by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
But Brien, a conservative Woonsocket Democrat, believes his just-announced write-in bid will be different. “I think the political stars have aligned on this,” he said following a news conference outside Pepin Lumber on Cumberland Hill Road.
Here are some of Brien’s reasons for hope:
1) The presidential election in November will bring many more voters to the polls than during the low-turnout primary. (Brien, who voted for John McCain in 2008, acknowledges some irony in the idea that he could be helped by voters coming out to support President Obama; he said he hasn’t decided who he’ll vote for in November.)
2) The hotly contested CD1 race between Brendan Doherty and David Cicilline will also stimulate interest in voting, with Doherty expected to fare well in the conservative-leaning Blackstone Valley.
3) There’s not a Republican candidate to siphon part of the vote; Brien pointed to how his friend and former fellow Rep Doug Gablinske of Bristol ”probably would have won” a 2010 write-in campaign if there hadn’t been a GOP candidate. Brien says the Republican in that race got about 1500 votes, Gablinske about 1600, and the winner, departing Rep Richard Morrison, 2200 votes.)
4) The November ballot will be simpler and less cluttered than in years with a series of races for state general offices.
5) Brien lost the primary to Casey, a Woonsocket firefighter, by a thin margin — 52 votes.
“This is our chance to get it right,” Brien told a few dozen supporters during his announcement. He touted himself as a strong advocate for taxpayers and small businesses in Woonsocket.
The Woonsocket lawyer said he walked every street in the district and did not take the primary race for granted. Brien blamed his loss on a series of factors:
– Being targeted by labor;
– Suffering from a local perception that he would win; he says there was a late rush of support for Representative Lisa Baldelli Hunt because of a view that ”she was the one in trouble.”
– “An administrative error” that sent some voters to the wrong voting place. “I dont know exactly how much that accounted for the results, but it accounted for some,” Brien says.
Casey couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.