Rhode Island Working Families Party congratulates all of its endorsed winning candidates in this hard-fought primary election, including Democratic incumbents in the General Assembly who were challenged by more conservative candidates backed by the Democratic Party, and a group of insurgent candidates who move on to the general election. The politically potent organization made strategic primary endorsements to ensure that the most progressive candidates are on the general election ballot to challenge Republicans and win. While some races are too close to call, most of Rhode Island Working Families Party’s endorsed candidates won their elections. RI Working Families Party will support today’s winners, along with endorsees who only have contests in the general election in November.
“The work that Rhode Island Working Families Party began in 2016 continues to show that voters are hungry for bold leaders who will work for them.” said Georgia Hollister Isman, state director of Rhode Island Working Families Party. “This year we are taking that demand for candidates who put working families first statewide while defending our 2016 victors from from conservative backlash. We are also poised to expand the total number of seats held by progressives in both the state’s House and Senate. With each election cycle, we’re building on our solid bloc of working families lawmakers and changing Rhode Island’s political culture.”
Incumbent Reps. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (HD 5) and Moira Walsh (HD 3) prevailed over their challengers who had been recruited by Democratic leadership. In July, the state’s Democratic party endorsed conservative Democratic primary challengers including a woman hostile to reproductive rights, a Trump supporter — rather than support the Working Families Party-backed women. The blowback was so fierce that the Democratic Party dropped their support for one of the challengers but continued to back the other conservative Democrats in the primary.
“This election clearly shows that voters know what they want — champions who are deeply connected to the community and fighting for bold progressive change in the State House,” said Ranglin-Vassell. I am proud to stand alongside WFP to fight for a living wage and economic justice.”
RI WFP also supported newcomer Laufton Ascencao, who won his race to represent HD 68 in Bristol and Warren. The seat had been held by Senior Deputy Majority Leader Kenneth Marshall, who announced his retirement after Ascencao launched his campaign. Ascencao worked on Rhode Island Working Families Party’s campaign to win earned sick days for 100,000 state residents, organizing thousands of Rhode Islanders to send postcards to the State House. Laufton also helped organize the local branch of WFP in the East Bay, whose activists became the backbone of his campaign.
”There is no political organization that has been as significant to me as Working Families Party,” said Ascencao. “WFP doesn’t just represent the issues I care about but shares the philosophy I believe we need — push for bold change regardless of who it upsets, and organize constantly so you don’t depend on anyone but the people for power.”
Working Families Party recruited winning insurgent Liana Cassar to run for the open seat in HD 66, representing Barrington and Riverside. Cassar is a public health professional who has been active in campaigns to improve schools and help elect local Democrats.
“The voters of District 66 have made it clear that they are ready for a change at the State House, a change in how business is done and a change that will help them and their community to see economic opportunity, social justice, reproductive freedom and a government that they can trust,” said Cassar. “The values of voters and the values of the Working Families Party have been aligned during my campaign and it has been great to have WFP as a partner as I’ve reached out to voters. I am grateful that Riverside and Barrington voted their values in the primary and I look forward to getting a chance to work on these issues at the State House.
Rhode Island Working Families Party has held eight campaign trainings since the 2016 election, educating not only candidates but also campaign managers and workers. In this cycle, the WFP provided people power to the campaigns, mobilizing volunteers and members to put boots on the ground, and used texting to mobilize voters and move them to the polls.
The other winning candidates in the House are Rep. Jean Phillipe Barros (HD 59); Rep. Susan Donovan (HD 69); Rep. Katherine Kazarian (HD 63); Rebecca Kislak (HD 4); Mario Mendez (HD 13).
RI Working Families supported these winners in the Rhode Island State Senate races: Val Lawson (SD 14) and Bridget Valverde (SD 35). RI Working Families Party also endorsed Rachel Miller for the Ward 13 seat on the Providence City Council.
Candidates endorsed by RI Working Families Party who did not have a primary and are competing in the general election are: Rep. David Bennett (HD 20); Justine Caldwell (HD 30); Rep. Kathy Fogarty (HD 35), Rep. Jason Knight (HD 67); Lauren Neidel (HD 40); Michael Steiner (HD 41); Rep. Teresa Tanzi (HD 34); Jennifer Douglas (SD 32); Sen. Dawn Euer (SD 13); Dennis LaValle (SD 17); Melissa Murray (SD 24); and Sen. Adam Satchell (SD 9). RI Working Families Party is also supporting Meghan Kallman for her second term on the Pawtucket City Council.