Warwick City Council President Steve Merolla is running for the state Senate being vacated by Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata, The Public’s Radio has learned.

Merolla is a partner in Merolla, Accentturo & Lough.

Merolla resumed the council presidency in 2019, when he had almost 20 years of experience on the panel. He has just under $30,000 in his campaign account.

Lynch Prata, who was first elected in 2008, announced Tuesday she’s seeking a pending vacant seat on the Rhode Island Supreme Court and will not seek re-election.

Merolla called leaving the City Council a difficult choice, but he said it's an important time to try for a new challenge.

“In recent years, I’ve been proud to work with Senator Lynch Prata, who has been a great advocate for our community in the State House and a collaborative partner with city government,” he said in a statement. “I want to bring that same approach to this race, working closely with the Mayors and councils in Warwick and Cranston, while providing the experience we need to help Rhode Island get back on the road to economic recovery after the coronavirus crisis.”

Merolla added, “As someone who runs a law firm and understands the challenges of meeting a payroll and keeping a small business running, I believe that’s the kind of expertise and insight we need in the State Senate. The immediate challenge facing Rhode Island government is going to involve listening to people, hearing their stories, understanding their concerns and putting together a recovery plan for our state that puts their needs first.”

Merolla appears likely to win the support of Senate leadership since another Democrat running for the seat being vacated by Lynch Prata, Kendra Anderson, is a progressive critical of legislative leadership.

In a statement, Anderson predicted her campaign will energize voters more than what she characterized as "a longtime establishment politician."

"From the very beginning of my campaign," she said, "I’ve shared my vision for Rhode Island based on equitable policies that bring forward the many voices of my District and RI. I’m a pro-choice Democrat and have worked on womxn and family issues all my life. When elected I will use the senate seat to further these issues, while also being a champion of the people, whether for climate justice, a predictable path to a $15./hour minimum wage or issues most important to the communities that I serve."

Anderson added: "I understand that some longtime supporters may be disheartened about the news of Lynch Prata leaving the Senate to pursue a new way of public service.I want to assure you that I have heard your voices and have stood side by side with you during our fight for a woman’s right to have autonomy over her own body. I will carry your voices with me all the way to the State House."

A graduate of Toll Gate High, Merolla went to the Catholic University of America and Columbus School of Law. He's also worked as solicitor for Block Island.

Another progressive, Zachary Colon, is running for the council seat held by Merolla.

This story has been updated.

Ian Donnis can be reached at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org.