Oscar Vargas wins primary to replace Sabina Matos on Prov. City Council

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Oscar Vargas has won the special election primary to replace Sabina Matos on the Providence City Council, according to unofficial results.

Unofficial totals show Vargas with 389 votes to Doris De Los Santos’ 327 as of Wednesday afternoon, after additional mail ballots from drop boxes were counted.

Vargas declared victory on Tuesday night when he had an 89-vote lead over De Los Santos, 379 to 290. The lead shrunk to 62 votes on Wednesday as De Los Santos picked up the majority of mail ballots left in drop boxes on Election Day, but Vargas maintained his lead based on the uncertified results.

“WE WON, GANAMOS,” Vargas posted on Facebook Tuesday night. “THOUSANDS OF THANKS, MILES DE GRACIAS!”

De Los Santos had not conceded as of Wednesday, saying she was waiting to see the final numbers.

Of the other candidates, Casandra Inez received 123 votes and Santos Javier received 77, according to the unofficial totals.

In-person turnout was low at the polls, with just 240 votes cast at two polling places Tuesday, according to the unofficial numbers, compared to 670 mail-in votes.

Only nine voters went to City Hall to vote early in person during the two-week early voting period.

There were 6,226 registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters eligible to vote in the primary in the ward, which includes Olneyville, Valley and part of Silver Lake.

Vargas will be the only candidate on the ballot in the general election on July 6, since no Republicans or independents are running.

The four Democrats were vying to replace Matos, who vacated her council seat in April after nearly 12 years to become Rhode Island’s lieutenant governor. Matos had endorsed De Los Santos, a friend and top council staffer when Matos was council president.

Vargas had the support of Sen. Frank Ciccone and Rep. Ramon Perez, who both represent parts of the ward, as well as Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Providence Republican Chair Dave Talan.

But state Sen. Sam Bell, who also represents part of the ward, endorsed De Los Santos, as did the R.I. Democratic Women’s Caucus.

Vargas, who works as a Senate aide at the State House, became the subject of an investigation by the Department of Business Regulation during the brief campaign after Bell filed a complaint claiming he was running an unlicensed auto glass business.

DBR confirmed there was no record that Vargas Auto Glass had a license – required by state law for auto glass repair – and Vargas responded by saying the shop was closed. He had previously told 12 News he ran the auto glass business, and touted it in an April news release announcing his campaign.

Vargas lost to Matos in a 2018 primary for the council seat. If he goes on to win the general election, he would serve out the rest of Matos’ term and be up for re-election in the fall of 2022.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook

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