PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Pedro Espinal has won the Democratic primary in the special election for Ward 10 on the Providence City Council.
Espinal received 304 out of 846 votes, according to the unofficial totals. In second place was Natalia Rosa Sosa with 236 votes, followed by Orlando Correa with 205 and Monica Huertas with 101.
Espinal will go on to face independent Jeffrey Lemire in the general election on Nov. 5. Political analysts say Espinal is likely to win easily in the heavily Democratic ward.
Mail ballots proved to be crucial in the low-turnout race, with more than a third of Espinal’s votes coming from mail-in ballots.
Of the 176 mail ballots counted, Espinal won 117 of them. Rosa Sosa received 54 votes by mail, while Correa received 4 votes and Huertas received only one vote by mail. (15 mail ballots were deemed deficient and sent back to voters, who have until Tuesday to correct them).
There were also 20 provisional ballots cast, which are expected to be counted on Friday.
“It was not an easy campaign,” Espinal told supporters at his victory party at Mi Sueño restaurant on Broad Street. “I do not want to focus on all the negatives that came out. I want to concentrate on all the positives and all the good things that we’re going to do for this community.”
Espinal was referring, in part, to reports that he owes $93,000 in back taxes to the city of Providence on four properties, and the city says he has not made a payment since 2017.
“I look at that as an example of someone that works really hard and has his struggles just like everyone else,” Espinal said in an interview Thursday night. “We should look at the composition and the structure that we have in the tax system and make it more equitable, more fair.”
He said his priorities, if elected, are the city’s finances and education.
Lemire, a scrap-metal worker, has said he wants to focus on ending corruption in the city. He ran for mayor last year and raised zero dollars.
The race was the first loss for the newly-formed progressive group R.I. Political Cooperative, which endorsed Monica Huertas.
“Monica’s campaign was about solving the problems people in her community are facing – making sure they have affordable housing, a living wage and good schools for their children. Those are the things Monica has always fought for and will continue to fight for,” the group’s co-chair Jennifer Rourke said in a statement.
The seat is open following the resignation earlier this year of former Council President Luis Aponte, who pleaded to embezzling from his campaign account. Aponte had represented Ward 10 since 1998.
Espinal is a real estate investor who lives in the Washington Park neighborhood. He nearly defeated Aponte in the 2018 primary for Ward 10, losing by just 24 votes.