Republican Steven Frias, who came close to toppling House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello in his state representative district in Cranston, announced Tuesday that he's dropped his challenge to the outcome of the race.
"After five months of being focused on this race, it is time for me to concede the election," Frias said in a statement.
The state Board of Elections is slated Tuesday evening to certify votes in the race between Mattiello and Frias. Frias won the initial machine vote count by a 147-vote margin, but mail ballots and provisional votes pushed Mattiello over the top (and eventually to a 85-vote margin of victory, 3,611 to 3,526).
In explaining his decision to end his challenge to the outcome, Frias said he accepted the decision of the State Police to close an investigation in the case of one voter, Larry Winkler, who said a Mattiello campaign volunteer questioned his decision to vote for Frias. The ballot was submitted with Winkler's selection of Frias.
"Also," Frias said, "although the Board of Elections has yet to provide access to all of the mail ballot envelopes in this race so that some type of review into the possible false notarization or witnessing of mail ballots could occur, I will not attempt to seek a delay the certification of the results in this race."
Frias and Mattiello squared off in House District 15, a conservative leaning district. Mattiello first won election as a state rep from the district in 2006. He became speaker, generally considered the most powerful political office in Rhode Island, after Gordon Fox resigned in 2014.
"I am proud of the honest campaign I conducted," Frias said. "I am grateful for all the support I received and continue to receive from people I see every day. My only regret is that I fell just short of ending the status quo at the State House. Still, the voters of District 15 sent a powerful message on election night. Despite the enormous resources at Speaker Mattiello’s disposal, he could not gain the support of a majority of the voters in his own district.
"When I decided to run against Speaker Mattiello," Frias continued. "I hoped to defeat him and bring dramatic change to the State House or to come close enough so as to impact State House policies. Although I may have lost by one percent, I believe I have already succeeded in making impact as shown by Mattiello’s campaign promise to phase out the car tax after he opposed efforts to do so in the past. I hope in the next two years, Speaker Mattiello recognizes that the people want change, and that he pushes to enact significant tax relief and clean government reforms. If Mattiello refuses to bring change, I expect the voters will eventually make a change as to whom they want representing them at the State House."