atrubia@ricentral.com

After the general election took place on Tuesday, preliminary votes were made available regarding the Senate District 35 race, in which the incumbent, Bridget Valverde (D), was challenged by Charles Callanan (R). According to the unofficial preliminary results, as of Nov. 10, Valverde received roughly 55 percent of the vote, leading Callanan by 10 percentage points.

All across Rhode Island, voters cast their ballots by mail, early in-person and at the polls on Tuesday. According to the Secretary of State’s vote tracker, roughly half of a million residents voted in the General Election, about 60 percent of all registered voters in the state. The voter turnout also exceeded the total in 2016.

Nearly 17,000 votes have been counted in the Senate District 35 race alone, with Valverde coming out ahead. (Senate District 35 is located in parts of East Greenwich, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Narragansett.)

While the Rhode Island Board of Elections has not yet finalized the data, the preliminary results showed Valverde (9,363) leading Callanan (7,479) in votes–though these results are still considered unofficial.

Valverde said she was “overjoyed” by the preliminary results.

“I’m just so happy to be given the opportunity to continue representing my community in the Rhode Island State Senate,” she said. “It was a long campaign, and I’m overjoyed to be given this opportunity again.”

Valverde, who was first elected to the Rhode Island Senate in 2018, said that running a campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges of its own, though she added she was encouraged by the large turnout of voters.

“It was obviously a different campaigning season, given the pandemic. But voters were really, really engaged, we saw that with the record turnout,” she said. “I’m hoping that this kind of enthusiasm for voting in Rhode Island will continue into the future.”

Valverde said that seeking passage of the FY2021 budget would be one of her top priorities in her next term, working with her colleagues to find ways to cover the projected shortfalls in revenue that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is currently a projected deficit for FY2021, with the General Assembly yet to pass a balanced budget for the current fiscal year–something that normally takes place before July.

“Definitely the budget coming up, there are a lot of things that we need to deal with, [such as] the revenue shortfalls,” she said. “But I’m looking forward to getting back with my colleagues as soon as possible.”

Callanan, a retired naval officer and current CEO, ran on a platform that focused on “leadership and fiscal responsibility,” which he said he had a lot of experience with from his years in the Navy and as an entrepreneur, according to his campaign website.  

Callanan posted a brief message on social media about the preliminary results showing him behind.

“Nothing left to say but thank you all for your support,” Callanan said on Facebook, posting a screenshot of the preliminary results, showing Valverde with 55 percent of the vote and him with roughly 45 percent.

When reached for comment, Callanan gave a succinct reply: “I am going back to work, that’s what leaders do.”

According to his campaign website, he graduated from Villanova University in 1989, before going onto the Navy and eventually becoming the CEO of the Callanan Veterinary Group in 2003.

In a statement, the North Kingstown Republican Party thanked Callahan for the “tireless” work he put into his campaign.

“Our goals in 2020 in North Kingstown, East Greenwich and the state as a whole have always been to inform the voters that the region is in the midst of a growing cyclical fiscal crisis, on top of a long-term secular downturn in growth,” the North Kingstown Republican Party said over email. “Reversing both of these requires difficult decisions that are unpopular, and easily passed off using inflammatory rhetoric and personal attacks.”

“Our challenge has been deepened in many cases, by the fact that most voters are unaware of the degree of fiscal strain, and that raising taxes on the residents of Rhode Island is no longer an option, no matter how worthy the use of those proceeds,” the local Republican committee continued.  “To this point, we rely on the media to share our views, with equal time and equal access, and to back our opinions with the readily available research that all Rhode Islanders should be aware of.”

For more information and updates, visit https://elections.ri.gov.

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