The race for the vacant Senate District 31 seat will be one of the most crowded during the Sept. 8 primary: It’s one of the few in which both the Democratic and Republican tickets will hold primaries to determine who will compete in the Nov. 3 general election for the seat.
Currently held by Democratic Sen. Erin Lynch Prata, who is not running for reelection in hopes of becoming a Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice, four Democrats and two Republicans are in the running for the seat that represents the majority of Warwick and a slice of Cranston.
Democrats address education, healthcare, economy in different ways
Warwick City Council President Steve Merolla is the endorsed Democratic candidate. He will face wealth and investment consultant Brian Dunckley, climate activist and teacher Kendra Anderson and real estate broker Michael Mita in the Sept. 8 Democratic primary. This is the first time all of the Democratic candidates besides Merolla have run for elective office.
Merolla said that he is the most qualified candidate because of his over 20 years of experience on the City Council. He said that he could easily transition his experience serving on the council to the state level.
“The similarities [between municipal government and state government] are that we deal with many of the same issues on the local level, but on the smaller scale,” Merolla said. “Warwick has a $333 million budget, the state has $8 billion. Some of the issues like environmental issues we dealt with here in Warwick, when we bought Westbay (Barton) Farm, that purchase was on the local level. Whereas when we purchased Rocky Point, that was a collaborative between the federal state and local. Here in Warwick I got a lot of good experience to be able to do that.”
Dunckley said his varied background makes him a standout. He was born and raised in Michigan, but moved to Rhode Island after college to work for a biotech startup to develop an artificial kidney. His background includes investments, science, startups, hiking and owning a small business, so he believes this gives him background on a variety of policy areas. Mita also addressed his business background as a reason for how he’d be unique from other candidates.
Anderson said her history of activism regarding the environment, education and labor make her a qualified candidate.
“I’ve been focused on the needs of our community for a long time in different aspects,” Anderson said. “Primarily addressing climate change, but besides that, I was not happy with our representation because I didn’t feel like there was a lot of connection to the community anymore. I want to be talking and listening to a resident on a regular basis, and not just during an election year.”