WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — It was the evening before Election Day when Marie Hopkins made her way to the Warwick home of state Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson.
Hopkins, a Republican, would be on the ballot challenging the Democratic incumbent for her District 21 seat the following day.
But Hopkins wasn’t visiting to debate the issues one final time. Instead, she shared a simple and sweet message, drawing a flattered reaction in response.
Hopkins stood on the doorstep and knocked, but wasn’t sure anyone would be home, given the two candidates’ busy schedules.
Then, the door opened. It was Vella-Wilkinson’s sister who answered, but the state lawmaker was within earshot and knew who was at the door right away.
“The voice sounded familiar and it sounded like Marie,” Vella-Wilkinson recalled.
To Vella-Wilkinson’s surprise, Hopkins was greeting her with a handwritten note and a cigar wrapped in red-and-blue ribbon.
The note read: “Thank you for the fairness and respect. Unlike so many others, we kept it positive and clean. You are a formidable opponent. I did my best and I know you did also. Now we leave it up to the people. However things go, I hope to join forces with you on some of the many things we both find important. We both want good things for the voters of D21. Again, thank you and good luck tomorrow.”
“I wanted to do something as, like, a handshake across the mat,” Hopkins said. “We had a lovely conversation on the doorstep.”
So, why the cigar? Well, Hopkins knew Vella-Wilkinson enjoyed them from time to time.
“I went to a local cigar shop and said, ‘I need some advice, what’s a good cigar?'” Hopkins recalled. “I ended up picking out one that a friend of mine smokes.”
Vella-Wilkinson confirmed it’s a tradition for her on Election Night to smoke a victory cigar, a habit that formed during her time in the Navy.
She posted about Hopkins’ visit on Facebook, reciprocating the sentiments.
“During the 12 years that I have been in municipal and State government, there have only been two races where I faced a ‘worthy opponent’ who ran a clean race,” she wrote. “The first was Michael Penta in 2016 and the second was my current opponent Marie!”
She and Hopkins said they enjoyed the clean campaigns that their respective sides put together and look forward to working together in the future.
The race ended up coming down to the wire: Vella-Wilkinson won by just 37 votes, according to the latest numbers from the R.I. Board of Elections. It was so close that Hopkins requested a recount, which is scheduled to happen Friday morning.