By JOHN HOWELL Tuesday's primary election was like no other all because of COVID-19. Traditionally by 9 p.m. all but a few numbers have been hand written on giant boards at various campaign headquarters. The winners would be celebrating and the losers
Tuesday’s primary election was like no other all because of COVID-19.
Traditionally by 9 p.m. all but a few numbers have been hand written on giant boards at various campaign headquarters. The winners would be celebrating and the losers would be drinking, too.
That wasn’t the scene Tuesday night. For starters, big crowds were a no-no. For those gathering, masks and distancing were the rule.
But the biggest change was that no one could say for certain who had won. That was still the case Wednesday morning, and by deadline last night the picture was clearer but not totally in focus.
Some tight races were hanging in the balance, including Senate District 30 where an upset appears possible and Ward 9 where Vincent Gebhart held a thin margin over Zachary Colon.
The early returns consisted of the ballots cast at the city’s 11 vote centers on Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, the Warwick Board of Canvassers had tallied the 609 early or emergency ballots, and those figures were later added to the counts provided by the state Board of Elections.
The big chunk, representing about half of the total votes cast – the mail ballots – had yet to be tallied.
Dottie McCarthy, director of the Board of Canvassers thought the count could be completed by Wednesday night or this morning. She said her department processed 5,391 ballot applications, but she had no way of knowing exactly how many had been returned.
Machine votes made for some very probable winners. Incumbent Mayor Joseph J. Solomon held a 62.6 percent lead over his Democratic challenger, Carel Callahan Bainum. Likewise, it looked like incumbent Sen. Michael McCaffrey in District 29 would beat progressive Democrat Jennifer Rourke in a rematch. He held a 10-point advantage in the machine count.
But then there were a handful of close races that offered surprises.
Incumbent Sen. Mark McKenney in Dist. 30 trailed Jeanine Calkin, the endorsed candidate, by less than 2 percentage points. McKenney beat Calkin two years ago. With the addition of the early ballots Wednesday morning, Calkin had 617 votes to McKenney’s 582.
In the hotly contested four-way Democratic primary in Senate Dist. 31, Kendra Anderson was leading the three contenders for the seat being vacated by Erin Lynch Prata by about 7 percentage points. No more than 1.5 percentage points separated the other three hopefuls, Warwick City Council President Steve Merolla, Brian Dunckley and Michael Mita.
Also in the Senate Dist. 31 race, where the city saw it’s only Republican primary, Scott Zambarano held a definitive 81 percent of the vote over John Silvaggio.
Incumbent and State Democratic Committee chair Rep. Joseph McNamara in District 19 held a comfortable lead over challenger Stuart Wilson. In Ward 8 incumbent Anthony Sinapi held a 17-vote edge on Dan Elliot. Also too close to call Tuesday night was the Ward 9 race to fill the seat being vacated by Merolla. Vincent Gebhart had a three-vote lead over Zachary Colon. He picked up with the early cast ballots widening the gap to 47 votes.
Solomon headquarters was ghostly empty Tuesday night. Not a single car was parked outside the office at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Post Road. The lights were on, but nobody was there.
Solomon and most of his department directors, close staff, his wife and son and council members Donna Travis and Sinapi gathered at the Islander Restaurant across town in more of a Chinese chow line than an election night party. A few of the group looked at their phones for election board results, but no one had any solid information. It was just too early.
Solomon said he spent Labor Day “cruising” the city in his convertible Cadillac with his wife, Cindy, and their dog Buddy.
Solomon said he would have loved to have everyone in one big room, but of course because of the virus that was impossible.
Solomon ran a low-key primary campaign, emphasizing his accomplishments in office and plans going forward.
“It was not a negative campaign,” he said of the primary, “it’s not in me.”
The pace of the campaign for mayor, however, is expected to pick up as independent candidate Frank Picozzi, who purposely remained silent during the Democratic primary defines his platform. The Warwick Beacon is working to schedule a live-streamed debate between the candidates hosted by the Warwick Public Library.