The election eve celebration was in full swing at the Democratic Party’s bash at the Providence Biltmore Tuesday night. Overall, it was a good night to be a Democrat in Rhode Island, as Sheldon Whitehouse, Jim Langevin and David Cicilline all maintained their seats. President Barack Obama’s re-election was the icing on the cake for those who gathered to celebrate their candidate’s victories.
It was incumbent U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse who took the stage in the Biltmore’s ballroom first, since his race was among the first to be called. Whitehouse led Republican challenger Barry Hinckley 65 to 35 percent, a win he called a “resounding victory” as he addressed the crowd.
During his speech, Whitehouse thanked his family, friends, volunteers, supporters and voters for helping him return to the Senate. Whitehouse said he would continue to protect Medicare, Social Security and Pell Grants, three programs Whitehouse mentioned as critical in his political ads.
“These are the mainstays of the American middle class,” he said.
Whitehouse said he would continue to fight for these things “to [my] last breath.”
He also said that leveling the playing field for those in the middle class was a priority and that he plans to make sure everyone has a fair shot. Whitehouse pledged to put an end to “special deals for special interests that favor the wealthy and well connected.”
“Everybody has the opportunity to be on board,” he said.
Soon after Whitehouse’s victory speech, incumbent Congressman Langevin addressed the crowd.
“Thank you for your trust,” he said. “I have never, ever taken your trust or vote for granted and never will.”
Langevin overtook challenger Michael Riley 55 to 35 percent, with independent challenger Abel Collins earning 9 percent of the vote. From the stage, Langevin took the time to thank his challengers for participating in the democratic process and for putting themselves out there.
“It takes a lot for anyone to put their names on the ballot,” he said. He said both Riley and Collins ran “strong campaigns.”
During his concession speech Tuesday night at the Providence Marriott, Riley expressed his anger over the results of the election, saying the press contributed to his loss and his money would have been better spent on his children’s futures.
“I kind of want to kick everybody in the press out, because you’ve been horrible overall,” were the opening words to his speech.
He went on to say that he had spent $800,000 of money he would have spent on his children’s future than on the campaign.
Riley thanked his supporters, but said he was concerned about the future of Rhode Island as it’s left in the hands of Democrats.
“To the rest of Rhode Island … I’m worried,” he said. “We are a canary in the coal mine, and we are headed right down this chute.”
He criticized the Democrats that defeated the GOP candidates, including Whitehouse, and said he had lost faith in the state’s government.
“I don’t believe in the structure of our current Rhode Island government,” he said. “Rhode Island, you’re headed head-long into a disaster.”
Riley said toward the end of his speech that his formal remarks would be his last words to the press (“Hopefully in my life,” he added), and said that he got the message that he shouldn’t have bothered running.
But in a statement yesterday, Riley seemed less hostile.
“It was a pleasure to be able to run and take part in the Democratic process,” he said. “I think my message of the economy and the Riley Plan really resonated with the voters of Rhode Island … I wish Congress the best of luck in the upcoming fiscal cliff debate. Thanks to all of my supporters … it was an honor.”
Riley said he would not run again.
Langevin said Rhode Islanders have a terrific Congressional delegation representing them in Washington, D.C., and this year he said breaking the gridlock and striving for bipartisan progress is critical.
“We can never be afraid to reach out across the aisle and find common ground,” he said.
Though the mood in the room was jovial and celebratory, Langevin took a moment to remind those present that many Rhode Islanders and Americans were struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
“There are still a lot of people struggling,” he said.
In a broader sense, Langevin said he recognized that many Rhode Islanders were struggling with the day-to-day doldrums of the state’s economic status, something he said he would seek to put an end to.
“I won’t give up until Rhode Islanders are back to work and the economy is where it should be,” he said.