atrubia@ricentral.com

NORTH KINGSTOWN – After days of counting mail and emergency ballots, the results of last Tuesday’s Rhode Island Primary Election are in, showing the winners and losers at local and statewide levels. The Rhode Island Board of Elections received and counted nearly 40,000 mail-in ballots–a much larger amount than past elections, due to safety concerns surrounding COVID-19 and in-person voting–with preliminary results being updated over the course of last week.

North Kingstown alone received over 1,700 mail ballots, much more than in past years. Town clerk Jeannette Alyward said the town also received more than 360 in-person emergency ballots, while roughly 1,370 North Kingstown residents checked in at polling places on election day.

The Republican primary in North Kingstown did not see any competitive local races, however the Democratic primary included competitive races for the town council and Rhode Island Senate District 36 (North Kingstown, Narragansett), as well as an unprecedented number of candidates for the Democratic Town Committee.

Seven Democrats declared their candidacies for the town council, with voters being asked to choose up to five to move onto the General Election, where they will face off against Republican and Independent candidates. Democratic candidates in the primary included current council president Greg Mancini and current councilor Richard Welch, as well as newcomers Katherine Anderson, Brad Artery, John Kliever, Kimberly Ann Page and Rickey Thompson.

According to the Board of Elections website, the top five vote getters in the primary for town council, in order of most to least votes received, were: Page (18.8 percent of the vote), Mancini (17.4 percent), Anderson (16.9 percent), Artery (14.5 percent) and Kliever (14.4 percent).

Welch, a multi-term member of the council, came in sixth, with 9.1 percent of the votes, and Thompson came in seventh, with 8.9 percent. Both candidates were endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee, leaving only two of the four endorsees–Page and Artery–to move onto the General Election. (Mancini, Kliever and Anderson were not endorsed by the committee.)

Welch did not respond to a request for comment, while Thompson declined to comment.

Voters were also asked to choose up to 53 out of 88 candidates for the Democratic Town Committee, a comparatively huge number of candidates to choose from. Traditionally, if a resident is interested in joining the town committee, they would need to simply fill out the correct paperwork to become a member. However, because of such a large number of candidates, the Democratic Town Committee decided to go through a ballot process to determine who would become a member.

Adding to the unusual Primary Election, the Democratic Town Committee also became a point of contention during the campaign, with the current chair, Jim Grundy, alleging that a bulk of the candidates were progressives seeking to push the party platform leftwards. A group of more progressive candidates have also been urging voters to choose specific contenders, using the hashtag #53forChange on social media.

Mancini, Kliever and Page topped the ballot for the Democratic Town Committee, with 2.9 percent, 2.5 percent and 2.3 percent of the votes, respectively. Julia Kliever (2.2 percent) and Anderson (2.1 percent) came in fourth and fifth, respectively, while Rep. Julie Casimiro (North Kingstown), who is running unopposed for reelection, received the sixth most votes, with 2 percent. (All except Casimiro were candidates highlighted by the #53forChange group.)

Page said she was “very honored to the be top candidate in the primary,” adding that she is now turning her attention to the General Election.  

“I realize that November 3 could yield a very different outcome,” she said. “I am very happy to be running with four other people, Greg Mancini, Katherine Anderson, John Kliever, and Brad Artery who I think would make excellent Town Council members. I hope people read our literature, look at our web pages and decide that we are the people who they want to lead North Kingstown for the next two years.”

Mancini said he was “grateful for the confidence that the citizens of North Kingstown have shown” in voting for him and the other successful Democrats.

“However, what I am most impressed with is voter turnout,” he added. “We are near the same turnout as in the primary two years ago, but that primary had primaries for the general officers, including for governor. So, to me, that is the best result from this election.”  

Anderson said that the Rhode Island Primary Election results represented a “total sea change” throughout the state and in North Kingstown.

“We saw historic primary victories for candidates who vowed to represent equally all constituents, including groups traditionally overlooked by those in power: seniors, young people, working families, those living in poverty, people of color, and those with challenges to their mental health and wellness,” Anderson said. “It was a victory for the people, achieved by the people. Students, parents, educators, public safety workers, healthcare workers, trade union members, and others all galvanized support for a slate of candidates deeply committed to dialogue, respect, inclusion, and progress.”

She also thanked Democratic Town Committee members Tom Sgouros, Anne Geertman and “50-odd others who fought to ensure a welcoming, ‘big tent’ approach to town politics.”

“I would also like to acknowledge town council president Greg Mancini,” she added. “Greg acted as mentor, organizer, and strategizer to the town council candidates throughout the primary race. His vision, executed collaboratively and democratically, was born of his unwavering desire to expand participation, inspire others to get involved, and transform the culture of our town politics.”

Artery said he was “humbled and privileged to move on from the primary to the general election ballot,” and thanked residents who came out to vote.   

He also said that the five winners of the primary–himself, Anderson, Mancini, Page and Kliever–represented “real change” for the town.

“Clearly the citizens of North Kingstown are ready for change in the town council,” he said.  “The five of us that received the votes represent real change for North Kingstown.  I’m hopeful, yet confident that the call and need for change will carry over into the General Election.

Artery went on to say that the top five vote getters of the primary were also endorsed by a group of North Kingstown educators, students and parents, which he said spoke “volumes” and was “very powerful.”  

“There should be no higher priority for North Kingstown than education, a concept that the current North Kingstown Town Council has failed to recognize,” he added. “Again, I am humbled with the educational endorsement and confident that our residents will vote for change and put education back at the top of the agenda where it belongs.”

Kliever said he was “ecstatic about the results of the primary.”

“Democratic voters chose a great slate of candidates and the larger than expected turnout bodes well for us in the General Election,” he said. “Our opposition has some good candidates as well, but they have to somehow manage the handicap of being associated with the worst President in the history of our country. I feel optimistic about our chances.”

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