Special election to fill Cano’s council seat expected in late June

Special election to fill Cano’s council seat expected in late June

Sandra Cano, second from left, and fellow state senators Dawn Euer, Newport/Jamestown, Ana Quezada, Providence and Donna Nesselbush, Pawtucket, cheer Cano’s victory. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

Correction: Henry Kinch Jr. has told The Breeze that while he spoke with Registar Ken McGill, he did not express any interest in the seat and won't be running.

PAWTUCKET – With at-large City Councilor Sandra Cano set to head to the Rhode Island Statehouse as the new senator in District 8, city voters will now be tasked with finding her replacement through the second special election this year.

The race for the at-large seat is already drawing plenty of interest, according to city officials, though no one has officially announced in the race.

Registrar Ken McGill said that former independent at-large candidate Rodney Barber has expressed interest in the seat.

“A few people have inquired,” he said.

The results of Democrat Cano’s April 3 victory over Republican Nathan Luciano are set to be certified at the state level today, Wednesday, April 11, said McGill, and a date for Cano’s swearing-in will then be set. The vacancy on the council won’t officially occur until she’s sworn in as a senator, he said.

“She’s still considered to be on the council,” he said.

The Pawtucket City Charter calls for a special election to take place 55 to 60 days after the date of a vacancy, likely putting a special election for the seat in late June, said McGill.

The exact process for declarations and timing of the primary and general election haven’t been determined, said McGill on Monday. With the Senate 8 special election, former Sen. Jamie Doyle announced on a Thursday that he was stepping down from the seat, and declarations happened the following Thursday and Friday. There were then six weeks to the Senate 8 primary, and another four weeks to the election.

Sandra Cano coasted to victory in the special election for Senate District 8, following up her impressive primary win over two Democrats by defeating Republican Luciano by more than a 2-1 margin.

The April 3 special election drew an even smaller turnout than the primary. Cano took 629 votes, to 234 votes for Luciano.

“I am overwhelmed by the support Pawtucket voters have shown me, during this special election and in tonight’s win,” said Cano in a statement. “It is a great honor to be elected to serve as their state senator, and to take on the challenges that face our city and state at this time. Senate Democrats and the leadership have been so supportive of my bid for office; I promise to bring the same commitment to community that I have given these many years as a Pawtucket elected leader.”

A City Council special election would presumably draw a much larger turnout, as the entire city would be included in the vote to fill the vacant at-large seat, not just the voters in one district. Whoever wins would have a short window to make an impression, as they’d have to run again in the fall.

The Senate 8 win marked the next step in the meteoric political rise of Cano, 34, who seemingly can’t be defeated in local politics. She previously scored landslide victories for both School Committee and City Council, repeatedly coming in as a top vote-getter.

Cano was the easy favorite in the race against Luciano, particularly after Luciano won the primary race with 77 total votes.

“I am happy that today the people of District 8 had a choice when they went to the polls,” Luciano told The Breeze after the loss. “I was honored to be the Republican candidate and I thank everyone who came out to vote today. I am very thankful for the overwhelming support from the people of Pawtucket. Thank you.”

Cano, a graduate of Harvard University’s Executive Leadership program, the University of Rhode Island graduate school in public administration and Bryant University’s business management program, campaigned on bringing more state aid to Pawtucket for its schools, improving services for senior citizens, keeping property taxes down, attracting new businesses and expanding workforce training, and keeping Hasbro and the Pawtucket Red Sox in Pawtucket.

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said, “Sandra’s victory is a result of her hard work on behalf of the people of Pawtucket and her vision for our great state. I am very pleased to welcome her to the Senate, where we will work together to make Pawtucket and our state an even better place to live and work.”

“Tonight’s decisive win shows that the people of our state are looking for strong, qualified Democratic leaders and Sandra Cano is just such a leader,” said R.I. Democratic Party Chairman Joseph McNamara. “Rhode Island is lucky to have her in the General Assembly and we look forward to more of the Blue Wave in the months ahead.”

On hand to take results April 3 were Mayors Donald Grebien of Pawtucket and James Diossa of Central Falls, who both cheered Cano’s win.

“While I’m disappointed to lose a great city councilwoman, I know she will continue to do great things for the city of Pawtucket and the state of Rhode Island in her new capacity as a state senator,” said Grebien. “She is incredibly talented and committed to the people whom she serves, and she’ll be an even greater state senator.”

“I’ve had the honor of knowing and working with Sandra Cano for many years,” said Diossa. “She’ll be an effective and compassionate leader who will advocate for economic opportunity and business growth for our residents and will bring her experience – in city service and in the private sector – to the many challenges that lie ahead.”

An earlier version of this story stated that Ken McGill said Henry Kinch Jr. had also expressed interest in the council seat. Kinch said he only made inquiries to McGill "for informational purposes only." He said he did not express interest in running for the seat personally, but has "spent a great deal of time lately encouraging new faces to get involved in our city's government."

Sandra Cano, right, gets a hug from her mother, Isabel Franco, as the results come in showing she has won the special state Senate election. The election took place Tuesday, April 3.