Watch Steph Machado’s interviews with all five candidates below.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The primary for the hotly contested special election on Providence’s East Side is less than two weeks away, with five candidates vying for the Democratic nomination to replace Sen. Gayle Goldin, who resigned in August to join the Biden administration.
Nearly $130,000 has been pumped into the race for Senate District 3 so far, which only began a month ago. (One candidate, Hilary Levey Friedman, was already raising money for a potential run for office before Goldin resigned.)
The candidates include Bret Jacob, a staffer for Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza; Levey Friedman, former president of Rhode Island National Organization for Women and a law student; Geena Pham, a public school teacher; former state Rep. Ray Rickman; and former Providence City Councilman Sam Zurier.
The primary winner will go on to face Republican Alex Cannon in the general election on Nov. 2.
The district is heavily Democratic, with 63% of voters registered as Democrats, 32% unaffiliated and only 5% Republicans. Early and mail voting is already underway, and voters can check online to find their polling place for the primary.
The race has drawn wide interest and a variety of endorsements. The official Senate District 3 party committee endorsed Bret Jacob, though the vote was split between Jacob and Zurier.
The progressive Rhode Island Political Co-operative is backing Pham, while the Working Families Party endorsed Jacob.
Pham also has a slate of endorsements from progressive groups including Climate Action Rhode Island, Black Lives Matter R.I. PAC and Reclaim RI.
Levey Friedman has drawn endorsements from the Providence Firefighters Union, the Rhode Island AFL-CIO and R.I. NOW, where she was recently the president.
State Rep. Edie Ajello, who has represented House District 1 on the East Side since 1992, endorsed Zurier, as did City Councilwoman Helen Anthony, who succeeded Zurier on the City Council.
Rickman’s backers include the Black Political Action Committee of Rhode Island and Dr. Michael Fine, the former state health director.
The district hasn’t had a Democratic primary since 2014, when Goldin was challenged by Christopher Wall.
Levey Friedman has raised the most money thus far, with $70,000 from donors as of the first set of campaign finance reports that were due Tuesday. Rickman has raised more than $22,000, Pham has raised nearly $18,885, Zurier has raised $17,768 and Jacob has raised $15,404.
Jacob said if elected he will seek a state ethics opinion before determining if he’ll continue working in Elorza’s office.
Pulse of Providence sat down with each candidate for a wide-ranging interview about Providence and statewide issues, asking each candidate the same set of questions. The interviews are listed in alphabetical order below.
Occupation: Director of Research and Development for Mayor Jorge Elorza; Providence LGBTQIA+ liaison
Years living in Senate District 3: 6
Hilary Levey Friedman
Occupation: Full-time law student; Brown professor
Years living in Senate District 3: 4
Occupation: 9th grade English teacher for Dartmouth Public Schools
Years living in Senate District 3: 1.5
Occupation: Executive Director of Stages of Freedom
Years living in Senate District 3: 42
Years living in Senate District 3: 31