By Brooke Constance White and James Merolla, Newport this Week
Democratic candidate Dawn Euer will carry on former Sen. M. Teresa Paiva Weed’s legacy in the State Senate District 13 seat after she won every polling location and garnered more than half of the votes during the Aug. 22 special election. Overall, 18 percent of all eligible voters in the district cast ballots, according to a polling spreadsheet the City of Newport provided to Newport This Week.
The seat, which represents Newport and Jamestown, became vacant in the spring when Paiva Weed (D), who was in office since 1993 and sat as senate president since 2009, resigned to lead the Hospital Association of Rhode Island.
Based on preliminary, unofficial results, Euer received 1,982 or 58.7 percent of the 3,375 votes cast, not including mail-in and emergency ballots. She was followed by Republican Michael Smith (1,295), Independent Kimberly Ripoli (73) and Green Party candidate Gregory Larson (17).
After the last results rolled in at around 8:15 p.m., Euer embraced her campaign manager, Erich Haslehurst, at the Elks Lodge as the song “Celebration” came over the speakers and the 40 people gathered began to cheer. After receiving hugs and congratulations from numerous friends and supporters, Euer thanked everyone, saying the campaign would not have been successful without them.
“We’ve had more than 300 volunteers since March, so we need to build upon this momentum,” said Euer, an attorney and community activist. “A lot of us were really devastated after the election in November, and I think people are done with divisiveness. We want to unify around shared values so we can stand up for working families in our communities.”
Euer said she would fight for the environment and make sure that seniors in Newport and Jamestown could “age in place with dignity and confidence.”
“We need a government that puts people first,” she said as the crowd applauded. “I’m so honored that the voters of Newport and Jamestown chose me. As we move forward, we must make sure that we continue this infusion of grassroots efforts because we’re just getting started.”
Earlier this summer, Euer received nearly half the votes cast in the July 18 democratic primary and defeated Newport School Committee Chairman David Hanos, Newport City Councilor John Florez and David Allard, a first-time politician and project manager with the state department of education.
Overall 2,163, or 15.8 percent, of the 13,556 registered voters in Newport came out to cast their ballots at the polls. In Jamestown, 1,212, or 24.5 percent, of the 4,914 registered voters cast their ballots during the special election.
Late Tuesday afternoon and into the early evening, polling locations were quiet. At 5 p.m., Polling Warden David Drooker said that there were 120 ballots cast at the Thompson Middle School polling location, which was more than he had expected by that time.
Turnout was also light at the St. John the Evangelist Church parish hall polling location. According to Polling Warden Regina Slezak, 161 of 687 registered voters in that precinct had cast their ballots by 6 p.m., less than two hours before the polls closed at 8 p.m. She said the hall was empty for long stretches of time.
At 7 p.m., the Pell Elementary School voting location was quiet with only two people casting their ballots. At that point, 259 residents had voted. Poll Supervisor Linda Larson said there had been a steady stream of people all day but there were never any lines.
The election results will not become official until Thursday, Aug. 31 at the earliest, said Canvassing Clerk Tracy Nelson, as the Board of Elections will not certify final results until Thursday or Friday of next week.
Two hundred thirty mail-in or emergency ballots are being held, all belonging to Euer, after the Board of Elections found that all 230 used the same Notary Public, which is not allowed, according to Nelson.
Per state law, if the same notary certifies more than 50 ballots, the Board of Elections must investigate. The notary will be asked to appear before the elections board on Monday to testify that she witnessed all the signatures, Nelson said.
Republican candidate Mike Smith learned of election results at the home of James Dring, a family friend, where he was stationed with 40 supporters, including Cranston Mayor and former Gubernatorial candidate Alan Fung.
After the results were tallied and it was clear that Euer had won, Smith spoke to his supporters. “It’s been a long road. We worked terribly hard,” he said. “They just did something a little more. I’m not sure what that was, but they did something a little more.
“There are a number of you guys who are going to be future leaders,” Smith added, pointing to a dozen young people in front of him, including his campaign manager, Luis Vargas. “It just didn’t go our way but we can’t stop fighting. We didn’t think it was possible, but we moved a little further to the left in our state. We hope we can keep families together, and keep jobs in our state.”
Ripoli, the Independent candidate who finished a distant third, said she felt good about the campaign.
“I congratulate Dawn on her victory. With the special election, obviously she had a lot of money from a lot of special interest groups, but I congratulate her,” she said. “They wanted someone who was part of the same establishment and that’s what they got. Good luck in this next General Assembly.”
When asked if she would run again, Ripoli responded, “I believe in public service. That has been my whole life. I’ve been a fighter all my life and why not fight for the little guy?”