NORTH KINGSTOWN – After declaring his candidacy in June, Greg Ferland has announced that he will be dropping out of the race for House District 31 (North Kingstown, Exeter).

Ferland, who was running as an Independent against Democratic incumbent Julie Casimiro,  said last week that he dropped out after the recent uptick in positive COVID-19 cases in Rhode Island.

“Well it’s actually as disheartening as it is simple,” Ferland said of his decision. “I chose to withdraw due to unforeseen consequences of effectively running the campaign I envisioned caused by the pandemic.”

Ferland said he became increasingly concerned that he, or anyone else, could be a potential carrier for the virus.

“And I definitely would not want to be “The COVID Candidate,” he said. “It got me to thinking about how I would feel if I was unknowingly carrying the virus and infected a constituent. Or multiple constituents.”

Ferland added that he still “fully believed in everything” he stands for, “without question.”

In an interview last month, Ferland laid out his platform, as well as why he was running.

Ferland initially got into the race in 2018 as a write-in candidate after learning that Casimiro was running unopposed. That year, Casimiro was one of many candidates who ran without an opponent, and Ferland decided to get in the race in order to give voters a choice.

“I believe for a healthy democracy, people should always have a choice,” he said at the time. “In [Dist. 31], the incumbent had nobody running against them. That just did not seem right. When I found out about it, the period to declare candidacy had passed. So I decided to run a full write in campaign. It was a great experience, and I enjoyed meeting my neighbors in the district.”

And this year, Ferland decided to run again, this time as an official candidate. He said he was once again running to give voters a choice between two candidates, but also because he didn’t believe Casimiro was doing right by the constituents she represents, adding that the most pressing issue facing residents in Dist. 31 was the same one facing taxpayers statewide: “money.”

“In particular how our tax dollars are being squandered by our political leadership,” he said.  “Without shaking things up in the General Assembly, we are destined to dig ourselves deeper and deeper into the abyss.”

However, with COVID-19 cases slowly rising, Ferland said he believed it would be irresponsible to continue his campaign, adding that he did not want to see a major spike in Rhode Island, as has happened in other states around the country.  

 “I simply do not want to be part of the problem, as I was running to be a solution,” Ferland said. “I would hate for Rhode Island to follow the trends in other states.”

Ferland was born in Rhode Island and has lived in North Kingstown for nine years. He attended the Community College of Rhode Island, Johnson & Wales, Providence College and the Rhode Island School of Design. He said that, for most of his life, he has worked in publishing, marketing and advertising.  

Casimiro, now once again running unopposed, was first elected to the Rhode Island House seat in 2016, and then again in 2018.

In July, Casimiro said she had two “very successful terms,” and was looking forward to a third.  

“I believe I had two very successful terms as the Representative from House District 31. I have worked hard on issues the voters have brought to me,” she said. “I have also helped hundreds of constituents navigate their way through these unprecedented times. I am getting great support from constituents across party lines.”

After Ferland announced he was dropping out, Casimiro said it was probably a “very difficult decision to make.”

“I am sure it was in his best interests,” she said on Monday. “I am thrilled to be unopposed but I will keep working my campaign and talking with my constituents so I have a clear vision of what is important to them and District 31.”

Update: After publication, the Standard Times was informed that Ferland was an employee of the Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and, according to state statute, would be unable to both continue his campaign and hold his position at the DMV at the same time.

North Kingstown Democratic Committee Chair James Grundy said that, because Ferland was a classified employee of the DMV, he was “statutorily unable to run for statewide office.”  

However, Ferland maintained that his reason for dropping out of the race was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, not his employment.

“My withdrawal was about not being able to run the campaign I wanted to due to the unfortunate complications regarding the pandemic,” he said. “That is the reason. I in good conscience could not take [the] chance to possibly infect or put other people in harm's way.”

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