It’s election time again in the “calamari comeback state” of Rhode Island.
A statewide referendum that would shorten Rhode Island’s official name and the Democratic House speaker’s tight race for reelection dominated Tuesday’s election in the Ocean State.
A glance at the races and issues Rhode Islanders are deciding:
Rhode Island has backed a Republican for the White House only four times — twice for Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956, once for Richard Nixon in 1972 and once for Ronald Reagan in 1984. Hillary Clinton won the state by more than 15 points over Donald Trump in 2016. Rhode Island has four electoral votes.
As of Tuesday night, Trump led Biden 53% to 45% with 35% of the vote in.
Longtime Democratic incumbent Sen. Jack Reed won reelection. He faced Republican challenger Allen Waters, a perennial candidate who mounted earlier unsuccessful campaigns for the state Senate and U.S. Senate in Massachusetts.
Reed, first elected to the Senate in 1996, is a senior member of the powerful Appropriations Committee and a ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. Rhode Island’s other U.S. senator, Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, isn’t up for reelection until 2024.
House District 1
Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, one of Trump’s harshest critics in Congress, defeated independents Frederick Wysocki and Jeffrey Lemire in his bid for a fifth term. Cicilline, who’s served five terms in the U.S. House, was mayor of Providence from 2003 to 2011, becoming the first openly gay chief executive of a U.S. state capital.
House District 2
Longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin, the first quadriplegic lawmaker to serve in Congress, is up against Republican former state lawmaker Robert Lancia. Langevin was leading 60% to 44% on Tuesday night. Langevin first was elected to the House in 2000. Lancia, a self-described “libertarian Republican,” set his sights on Congress after losing reelection to his Statehouse seat in 2018.
Republican Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung has ousted Rhode Island's Democratic House speaker, Nicholas Mattiello. Voters in western Cranston’s 15th legislative district backed Trump for president in 2016, and in 2018, Mattiello defeated his GOP opponent by just 329 votes.
Rhode Islanders also passed judgment on a ballot measure that would shorten the state's official name. As of Tuesday night, 44% of voters cast ballots to approve the name change, with 56% voting to reject it.
Rhode Island was incorporated as The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations when it declared statehood in 1790, and voters were asked to strip the “and Providence Plantations” wording. Although the word “Plantations” in Rhode Island’s name doesn’t specifically refer to a place where slaves labored, the measure’s backers said it’s offensive at a time when the nation is confronting racial injustice.
Rhode Island’s ties to the slavery era are undeniably deep. Merchants from the state played a key role in the transatlantic slave trade, launching more than 1,000 voyages to buy and ship slaves from Africa and the Caribbean.
More than 480,000 residents cast ballots, with some 300,000 casting ballots early or mailing them in ahead of Tuesday. Elections officials cautioned that results for some races might not be knowable Tuesday night because of expected tabulation delays.