Harwood Claims One Victory But Faces New Challenge

WRNI – Although he appeared on his way to a close re-election victory as a State Representative, Rhode Island House Speaker John Harwood also appeared close to losing his control over the House.

Manual ballot counting began in Pawtucket soon after polls closed Tuesday. That was because Harwood's challenger, Bruce Bayuk, was waging a write-in campaign.

Before the count was completed, it appeared Harwood was the winner. Elections officials said there were 47 more votes cast for Harwood than there were write in votes, and some write-in votes were being discounted.

"I've been trashed in the papers the last few weeks. I think anyone who has been trashed the way I have they'd be lucky if they're still standing, nevery mind victorious," Harwood said.

While Harwood claimed victory, Bayuk refused to concede.

"In my mind there is no winner and no loser at this point," said Bayuk, "It looks like there's a number of irregularities in the entire process. We're going to demand a full and complete re-count of all the votes."

Elections officials in Pawtucket acknowledged some mechanical break-downs late in the day, but said no votes were lost.

Harwood indicated that he wants to keep the top job in the House, but acknowledged his vulnerability.

"I want to make sure though in my own heart though that whatever I decide is in the best interest of the House of Representatives. I truly love the House of Representatives," Harwood said.

That could be difficult. Only 13 of the House winners said they backed Harwood, when surveyed last week.

A new leadership team, led by Harwood loyalists, is being formed, sources told WRNI. Leading that team is State Representative William Murphy, who would become the next speaker and house. Finance Chairman Gordon Fox who would become Majority Leader.

"They're both good friends of mine," said State Representative David Caprio who had previously expressed interest in the post of Speaker, "However, Rhode Islanders are going to take a hard look at the next leadership team, and I think there will be some concern if they see the same people at the highest positions of the Harwood leadership team remain in the highest positions."