Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo scored a decisive win over Republican rival Allan Fung on Tuesday, as House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello claimed victory in his state representative race, and Democrats continued to dominate Ocean State politics.
With 99 percent of the vote, unofficial results show Raimondo with 52.6 percent of the ballots cast, compared with 37.2 percent for Fung, 4.4 percent for Republican-turned-independent Joe Trillo, 2.7 percent for Moderate William Gilbert, 1.7 percent for Luis-Daniel Munoz, and 1.1 percent for Anne Armstrong.
Raimondo’s received more than 196,000 votes -- more than 65,000 votes above what she collected when she became Rhode Island’s first female governor in 2014. She also became the first RI governor to attract more than 50 percent of the vote since Republican Don Carcieri did so in 2006.
Speaking to supporters at the Providence Biltmore, Raimondo said the top goal of her second term will be trying to share more widely the benefits of Rhode Island’s economic recovery.
“We have work to do until we come to a time that every single Rhode Islander willing to work hard has a shot at a good job and a bright future in our state,” she said to cheers from a few hundred people. “That is the work that lies ahead in these four years and we’re not stopping until we’re done.”
At the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, Fung told his supporters that he thought he ran a good race.
“It’s not easy to take on a machine,” he said, in an apparent reference to the dominance of Democrats in Rhode Island. “But we had the courage and the vision to bring the right kind of change to Rhode Island and speak our mind for all of you, and I’m damn proud of that fact.”
Raimondo outspent Fung by a factor of about three to one, dropping more than $6 million on her campaign. Asked whether the result would have been different had she competed with Fung on an equal financial footing, Raimondo told The Public’s Radio, “I don’t know. I know we won. We won big. We got a clear majority and it’s a chance to finish the job we started.”
From the time he announced his second run for governor in October 2017, Fung mostly avoided reporters until after he won a GOP primary in September, a strategy that may have hindered his appeal. Fung has proven popular as the mayor of Cranston, although his latest statewide run was complicated by President Trump’s unpopularity in Rhode Island and Trillo’s independent run. Yet talk of Trillo as a spoiler proved empty, since his 4.4 percent showing represented about a third of the gap between Raimondo and Fung.
Raimondo used her victory speech to point to herself as an example of what girls can accomplish. And she said Rhode Islanders are turned off by the rancor and polarization they see in Washington.
“We were founded on a principal of tolerance and inclusion,” she said. “Now is the time to hold dear to that value, to be inclusive, to be inclusive of people of all faiths, of all races, of all orientations.”
Elsewhere, Democrats rolled over Republican opponents, as the three members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation seeking re-election rolled to victory. U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse beat GOP rival Robert Flanders, on a 61.4 percent to 38.4 percent margin, to win his third term.
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello repulsed a second challenge by Republican Steve Frias, winning by a margin of 310 votes, 3,431 to 3,121, in in person voting.
Mattiello plans a closed Democratic caucs at Chapel Grille in Cranston at 6 p.m. Thursday to try to consolidate his support for another term as speaker.
Frias said he felt he ran a good campaign, focusing on cutting taxes and promoting good-government, and that in his view Rhode Islanders preferred to stick with the status quo. He claimed credit for helping to expose rifts among legislative Democrats – an issue that will continue to play out in the new General Assembly session.
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza won a second term by defeating independent opponent Dianne “Dee Dee” Witman. Elorza attracted 63.7 percent of the vote, defeating Witman by almost 13,000 votes.
Republicans restored their previous representation of five members, among 38 senators, in the Rhode Island Senate. That was due to a combination of three races: Republican Dana Gee, the wife of Sen. Mark Gee of East Greenwich (who did not seek re-election) was defeated by progressive Democrat Bridget Valverde. Yet the loss of a GOP seat was offset by how Jessica de la Cruz of Burrillville defeated Democrat Kevin Heitke for the seat vacated by Sen. Paul Fogarty, a Glocester Democrat. Meanwhile, Republican Gordon Rogers won the seat formerly held by Nicholas Kettle of Coventry, also a Republican, who stepped down earlier this year after being charged with extortion and video voyeurism.
Republicans lost 2 of their 11 seats in the 75-member Rhode Island House of Representatives. That was due to how a series of four Democrat flips was offset by two Republican flips: The seat vacated by former House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan (R-West Warwick) was won by Democrat James Jackson. Republican John Lyle won the seat vacated by Rep. Jay O’Grady (D-Lincoln). Democrat Christopher Millea won the seat held by Rep. Robert Lancia (R-Cranston). Rep. Anthony Giarrusso (R-East Greenwich) lost his seat to progressive Democrat Justine Caldwell. Republican David Place beat former House Judiciary chairman Cale Keable (D-Burriville), the subject of recent publicity about a claim of sexual harassment that he denies. And progressive Democrat Terri Cortvriend defeated Rep. Ken Mendonca (R-Portsmouth).
With reports from Lynn Arditi