Republicans take home victories in Burrillville

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BURRILLVILLE – At a little bar on Callahan School Street Tuesday night, there was cause for celebration.

As Republican candidates for local and state offices watched the numbers come in, the excitement in the room was palpable.

“This used to be a Democratic town. Now it’s Republican,” said Councilor Raymond Trinque, a right-leaning member of the board currently mid-way through his second term.

In Burrillville, at least, the tide in the 2018 mid-term election, was decidedly red. 

Jessica de la Cruz of North Smithfield took the Senate District 23 seat, formerly occupied by retiring Sen. Paul Fogarty, a Democrat, securing more than 50 percent of the vote.

The House District 47 race saw an upset, with Burrillville Republican and former Town Councilor David Place winning the seat over three-term Rep. Cale Keable.

On the Town Council, where four seats were up for grabs, three went to Republican candidates, with Councillor Donald Fox securing a second term with a total of 2,822 votes in the early tally.

Visitors to Toti’s Tuesday night watch local election results come in.

At Toti’s Tavern on Callahan School Street, candidates and their family members reported in with numbers from the town’s six polling places, and all of the results showed impressive wins for Republicans, a pattern that differed from statewide trends.

“We’re going to roll Republican all the way across,” said Trinque.

He was quite nearly right.

de la Cruz beat out Democrat Kevin Heitke, who had retiring 20-year state Sen. Fogarty’s endorsement in the hotly contested race. Heitke had 4,928 votes in the early tally Tuesday, while political newcomer de la Cruz had 6,163.

Both of the General Assembly victors said it was their one-on-one with voters that may have tipped the scales.

“I think the difference was getting out there and talking to voters,” said de la Cruz. “I knew being a political newcomer, I really had to get out there.”

State Sen. Jessica de la Cruz celebrates a win over opponent Kevin Heitke with husband David de la Cruz.

de la Cruz said while canvassing, she visited some homes up to three times. Residents that had voted Democrat their entire lives, she said, told her they wanted to give her a chance.

“I think they saw my sincerity,” de la Cruz said.

Of her plans for the position she noted, “I want to stay true to my word. I want to watch over local issues, and protect local control.”

“I’m just happy,” said Place in reaction to the numbers, which saw him beating out Keable by a significant 56 percent margin. “It was just a lot of walking.”

“If you look at the numbers across the board, Republican candidates are doing really well,” Place said.

“There was a red wave up here,” added Place, noting that in 2010, Rep. Brian Newberry was the sole Republican among Burrillville’s elected officials. Newberry went unchallenged in 2018, securing his fifth term.

“We’ve been working on this since 2010,” said Place. “Thanks to the work of the people in this room, it’s changed.”

Rep. David Plac stands with wife Erin, left, and Dora Waterman, owner of Toti’s Tavern.

Keable, a once popular representative known for his opposition to Invenergy Thermal’s proposal to build a power plant in town, faced something of a scandal just one week before the General Election. Allegations of sexual harassment from Rep. Katherine Kazarian of East Providence had led to the temporary removal of Keable from his role as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Keable arrived at Toti’s to congratulate his District 47 opponent shortly after the numbers came in.

“I give him a lot of credit for doing that,” said Place.

Former Rep. Cale Keable congratulates David Place on his District 47 win

Fox, who himself had tried, and failed, to unseat Keable in previous years, said Burrillville voters had sent a strong message with Tuesday’s results.

“I think they thought about the issues,” he said of voters. “I think they thought about their pocketbooks”

Fox pointed to improvements in town made under current Republican leadership, including investments in schools and road repairs.

“This is where people see the most impact from their votes,” Fox said.

Incumbent Stephen Rawson, also a Republican,  secured his seat for another four years on the council with 2,306 votes.

Councilor Dennis Anderson watches as results come in.

Dennis Anderson grabbed another open seat as the fourth-highest vote-getter, with 2,150 counted as of Tuesday night. The early results showed his closest challenger, Democrat Scott Anthony Cardon, garnering 2,070 votes.

The results make Amanda Gingell, the second most popular candidate with voters, not only the lone female councilor on the board, but also one of only two Democrats. The EMT and volunteer firefighter with the Harrisville Fire District will join Councilor Jeremy Bailey, who is currently two-years into his four-year term on the seven-member board.

Gingell had 2,539 votes as of Tuesday night.

Independent John Anthony Scott, meanwhile, did not secure a second term.

On the School Committee, the top five out of six candidates will soon be sworn in. Incumbent candidate Silvia St. Pierre came in first in the race with 3,838 votes, and both Alexandra LeClair and Donison Allen won another four-year term.

Terri Lacey and Sean Bouzan will also join the board, securing 3,656 and 3,106 votes by the early tally respectively.

Even results for high-ranking state offices, which across Rhode Island were dominated by Democrats, went to Republican candidates in Burrillville.

Burrillville voters picked Gov. Gina Raimondo’s Republican challenger Allan Fung by a nearly 2-1 margin, although the incumbent easily beat out her opponent once statewide votes were counted, securing a second term.

They also choose Robert Flanders over incumbent Congressional Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who won more than 61 percent of the vote state wide.

Anderson, who may have won over voters with the comprehensive literature he handed out as part of the campaign, said some residents referenced his handouts at the polls.

“That happened more than once,” he told NRI NOW Tuesday.

Despite heavy rains throughout the day, the mid-term election saw a relatively high voter turnout.

“The most common thing I heard was what a crappy day for an election,” said Anderson. “People weren’t really interested in standing around and chatting.”

Political signs, no longer needed, are lined up outside behind of Toti’s Tavern.