15 candidates gain enough signatures to get on congressional election ballot

FIFTEEN LOCAL CANDIDATES each have received at least 500 signatures to get on the ballot for the open 1st Congressional District seat. / AP FILE PHOTO/SUSAN WALSH
FIFTEEN LOCAL CANDIDATES each have received at least 500 signatures to get on the ballot for the open 1st Congressional District seat. / AP FILE PHOTO/SUSAN WALSH

PROVIDENCE – Thanks to voter signatures, the large field of candidates looking to succeed David N. Cicilline in the U.S. House has been cut by more than half.

According to the R.I. Secretary of State’s office, 15 total candidates – 13 Democrats and a pair of Republicans – as of Friday afternoon obtained at least 500 of the required voter signatures within the district in order to be eligible for the special election. Candidates needed to submit the signatures and nomination papers to local boards of canvassers by the end of the day Friday.

July 19 is the deadline for candidates to withdraw from the race and the ballot placement lottery will be held that day for both the special primary on Sept. 5 and general election on Nov. 7.

Cicilline stepped down from Congress after 11 years to become the Rhode Island Foundation’s new CEO and president. Initially, 35 candidates declared their candidacy for Congress.

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Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos; Sen Ana B. Quezada, D-Providence; Providence City Councilor John Goncalves; Sen. Sandra Cano, D-Pawtucket; Yale Law School Joseph C. Tsai Leadership Program Senior Executive Director Don Carlson; former Gov. Gina M. Raimondo aide Nick Autiello; former State Rep. Aaron Regunberg; former White House staffer Gabe Amo; former secretary of state candidate Stephanie Beaute; former South Kingstown State Rep. Spencer Dickenson; Rep. Stephen M. Casey, D-Woonsocket; Walter Berbrick; and former Republican turned Democrat Allen R. Waters all reached or exceeded the 500-signature threshold on the Democratic side.

Rep. Marvin J. Abney, D-Newport, who has chaired the R.I. House Finance Committee, received 323 validated signatures as of Friday afternoon, per the secretary of state’s office, short of the requirement needed. Michael Tillinghast, Tony Sfameni, Narragansett Indian Tribe elder Bella Noka, Mickeda S. Barnes, Kathleen Gaskill, Larry Hutchinson Jr. and Gregory Mundy each were Democratic candidates who either fell just short of the signature requirement or did not receive signatures at all by late Friday afternoon.

Paul LeBon, a former Texas congressional candidate, withdrew from the race earlier this week after suffering a mini stroke.

On the Republican side, political newcomer Gerry W. Leonard Jr. and former Middletown Town Councilor Terri Flynn each received 500 or more signatures to be ballot eligible. Republican candidates Gary D. Fagnant and William J. Lebron Jr. fell woefully short of obtaining signatures to remain in the race.

However, the Rhode Island Republican Party earlier this week formally endorsed Leonard in his push to succeed Cicilline in Washington, D.C. In a statement, RIGOP Chairman Joe Powers said Leonard, a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel, is running for Congress to “bring much-needed relief to Rhode Islanders.”

Back in June 2022, then-Rep. James R. Langevin, D-R.I., endorsed his subsequent successor, Rep. Seth Magaziner, not long after the Rhode Island Democratic Party had gave its blessing toward Magaziner in what was at the time a crowded Democratic field seeking the 2nd Congressional District seat. Langevin at the time wouldn’t say whether the other Democratic candidates should drop out of the race and get behind Magaziner, and some candidates criticized Langevin for that endorsement.

RIGOP officials did not immediately respond Friday to questions from Providence Business News as to what makes Leonard stand out, if the party feels other Republican candidates should withdraw from the race and support Leonard or if the party feels concerned about a possible rift among Republicans endorsing Leonard with a primary election still in play.

None of the nine independent candidates – Stephen G. Earle, Joseph Jean-Philippe, Jeffrey E. Lemire, C.D. Reynolds, Paul Rianna Jr., John D. Ritchie, Julian J. Smith and John S. Vitkevich – reached the 500-signature mark by Friday afternoon.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.

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