Pearson, Marszalkowski overwhelm GOP challengers

Pearson, Marszalkowski overwhelm GOP challengers

Newly-elected Town Councilor Stephanie Gemski and State Sen. Ryan Pearson congratulate each other at a Democratic victory party at Angelo’s Palace Pizza on Tuesday night. (Breeze photos by Robert Emerson)

CUMBERLAND – Incumbent Democrats Sen. Ryan Pearson and Rep. Alex Marszalkowski handily defeated Bill “BJ” Charette and GOP Chairman Brandon Bell in a pair of General Assembly races Tuesday, the challengers coming up well short of victory.

The Rhode Island Republican Party had high hopes for Cumberland heading into Tuesday’s election, but Charette, Bell and Michael Veri all stumbled on their way to substantial losses.

Pearson, in Senate District 19, and Marszalkowski, in House District 52, ran as a team promoting their record of success advocating for their communities.

The two celebrated with many of the same people who were part of Jeff Mutter’s winning mayoral primary election team at Angelo’s Palace Pizza on Mendon Road.

Pearson, again standing on a chair to greet and thank supporters, said this was a great night for the Democratic party and for the town. With results at nearly 60 percent of the vote in both races, “we are in a better position than ever to really deliver results for our town,” he said, adding that this was a “strong mandate” from voters who believe leaders are doing a great job and can do even better.

Town delegation members will have a great council and mayor to work with, said Pearson.

Several times during the evening Tuesday, supporters commented on polling numbers at certain locations coming in better than they did two years ago.

Mutter, who effectively won the mayoral contest against incumbent Democrat Bill Murray in the primary, easily won again Tuesday with no Republicans or independents seeking the town’s top administrative seat.

Incumbents in other General Assembly races touching Cumberland also fared well Tuesday, with both District 20 Sen. Roger Picard and District 51 Rep. Bob Phillips winning their races by large margins over Republican Michael Veri and Moderate Rufus Bailey. Phillips secured 72 percent of the vote, or 2,478 votes, to Bailey’s 28 percent, or 950 votes. Picard had a narrower but still convincing win, earning 4,989 votes, or 62 percent, to Veri’s 3,051 votes, or 38 percent.

The Senate 19 and House 52 races both turned more aggressive late, with an assortment of mailers going out from the Republicans that were critical of their opponents.

A Bell mailer about Marszalkowski was labeled “Sold Out,” saying he’s become “just another member of the gang” under House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. A mailing from Charette ripped Pearson for his controversial attack mailer of two years ago, in which Pearson called Charette an empty suit, while Pearson noted that the 2016 campaign got negative on both sides.

Both Charette and Bell ran on an anti-establishment platform, saying Pearson and Marszalkowski are part of the problem in state government.

Just before polls closed, Charette said, “win or lose, I’m looking forward to spending more time with my wife. Win or lose, I’m proud of what we’ve done.”

He said he felt confident before the results came in, saying his team put “a lot of hard work into this campaign.” He said he wore out the soles of his shoes knocking on doors ahead of the election.

He said most people whose doors he knocked on were concerned more with issues such as UHIP, DCYF, out-of-control spending and job creation than the mailer controversy.

When the results came in, Charette thanked a group of his supporters at La Familia Restaurant in Cumberland, in addition to thanking his wife Alaina who “motivated and supported him,” and his late daughter Layla. 

“Brandon (Bell) and I had a lot of fun. We walked many, many miles and he pushed me to keep going,” he said. “We gave ‘em a good fight and I’m really proud.”

Charette congratulated Pearson on his hard-earned win. 

Bell also congratulated Marszalkowski, posting a picture of the two of them after the results were announced.

“Alex Marszalkowski is a good man and I hope my challenge makes him an even better legislator,” he said. “While nobody likes to lose, tomorrow starts a new day because there are no permanent victories or defeats in politics. Congrats and my best wishes to Rep. Marszalkowski. He said the incumbent has been “nothing but a gentleman.”

Bell arrived at La Familia after the polls closed and the results were clear that he had been beaten by Marszalkowski.

“It’s Rhode Island’s version of the blue wave,” he told a supporter.

While Bell said he’s “bummed” about the loss, he said he’s proud of the efforts of his team and their mission to fight for transparency and good government. 

“The Statehouse is a sewer. By running, we’re showing the public that these people can’t be entrenched in their seats,” he said of so-called establishment Democrats. “We need to constantly run against these folks and eventually we’re going to win.”

Bell said he’s “not at all upset” by the loss. “I’m thrilled to see the kind of support we have.”

He added, “The last four months have been a blast running with BJ. We are going to keep fighting. We tried to make Cumberland great again. Next time we will.”

He thanked his wife Lisa and daughter Alexa.

Cumberland Democratic Town Committee Chairman Tom Kane Tuesday said he sees the results of this year’s primary and general elections as a “clean sweep” for the party. At-large primary candidate Roland Gauvin, the only loss, was dealing with health problems during his primary race, he said.

“The voters of town really got behind a good group of people,” said Kane.

The “huge margins” in the General Assembly races “speak for themselves,” he said.

In Senate District 17, Lincoln, North Smithfield and North Providence, incumbent Republican Sen. Thomas Paolino appeared to have eked out a close election win over Dennis Lavallee. Paolino won the Lincoln part of the district by a vote of 3,930-3,751.

Ryan Pearson and his grandmother Fran Pearson use an iPhone before returns start coming in.
Scott Gould, of Cumberland, submits his ballot after he voted at Cumberland High School on Tuesday afternoon.