PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It looks like about one out of every three incumbent Rhode Island state lawmakers will be able to enjoy a relaxing summer.
A WPRI 12 analysis of data from the secretary of state’s office shows no one had filed to run against 39 of the General Assembly’s 113 members as of Thursday morning, with both Democrats and Republicans among the lucky unopposed.
The numbers continued to change later Thursday.
In an interview, State Rep. Stephen Ucci confirmed he has decided not to seek re-election in Johnston’s House District 42 despite pulling papers to do so, ending a 14-year career in the House.
“I’ve given it a lot of thought,” Ucci told WPRI 12, citing family obligations as well as a new job and recovery from a back surgery he underwent Wednesday.
Ucci said he made the decision late Wednesday and is supporting a fellow Democrat, Edward Cardillo Jr., who pulled papers before the deadline. “He’s a good person,” Ucci said. “I think he carries the same views as everyone in the district. I’ll be helping him.”
R.I. Republican Party Chair Sue Cienki has until late Thursday afternoon to appoint candidates in races where no Republican filed to run. She told WPRI 12 she is naming Frank Ricci as the GOP candidate in Ucci’s district, as well as appointing Mary Ann Lancia in House District 16 (represented by Democrat Chris Millea) and David McGinn in House District 17 (held by Democrat Robert Jacquard).
R.I. Democratic Party Chair Joe McNamara said he will not be appointing candidates in any House or Senate races where no Democrat filed to run, though he may do so in some municipal races if asked by local party leaders.
In addition, just because a candidate pulled papers does not mean he or she will actually turn in enough signatures to appear on the ballot, whether because of a failure to gather enough by the July 10 deadline or a change of plans between now and then. In addition to Ucci, at least one other incumbent — Jacquard — has not yet said whether he is definitely running, despite filing to do so.
Despite those outstanding questions, the initial candidate filings give a good sense of the likely electoral landscape for General Assembly heading into the Sept. 8 party primaries and the Nov. 3 general election.
In the Senate, 12 incumbents are currently unopposed: Democrats Frank Ciccone, Cindy Coyne, Lou DiPalma, Dawn Euer, Gayle Goldin, Frank Lombardo, Melissa Murray, Ana Quezada, Ryan Pearson, Roger Picard, and Jim Seveney, as well as Republican Gordon Rogers.
In the House, 27 incumbents are currently unopposed: Democrats Marvin Abney, Mia Ackerman, Gregg Amore, Edith Ajello, Jean Philippe Barros, David Bennett, Stephen Casey, Liana Cassar, Arthur “Doc” Corvese, Greg Costantino, Bob Craven, Joshua Giraldo, Art Handy, Jason Knight, Charlene Lima, Carol McEntee, Jim McLaughlin, Mary Messier, Bob Phillips, Evan Shanley, Joe Shekarchi, Scott Slater and Carlos Tobon, as well as Republicans Blake Filippi, Brian Newberry, David Place and Sherry Roberts.
The highest-profile legislative race this fall could once again be in Cranston’s House District 15, where Democratic Speaker Nicholas Mattiello is facing a challenge from Republican Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, the wife of Mayor Allan Fung. (Mattiello’s GOP counterpart, House Minority Leader Blake Filippi of New Shoreham, is unopposed in his district.)
Senate leaders have also drawn opponents, with Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio squaring off against progressive primary challenger Lenny Cioe in North Providence-centered District 4, and independent Julius Dunn running against Republican Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere down in Westerly’s District 38.
A slew of familiar faces have also filed to attempt a return to Smith Hill.
In the Senate, Warwick Democrat Jeanine Calkin is trying to win back the District 30 seat she lost two years ago to fellow Democrat Mark McKenney, and former state Rep. Doreen Costa is set to be the Republican nominee in North Kingstown’s Senate District 36, where incumbent Democrat Jim Sheehan is retiring.
The list of comeback bids is even longer in the House.
In West Warwick, former House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan is trying to win back her old District 26 seat, held by Democrat James Jackson. In East Greenwich, former GOP Rep. Anthony Giarrusso has filed for a rematch against Democrat Justine Caldwell in District 30. At least a half-dozen other former lawmakers have also put in papers in various Assembly races.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook