There weren’t any surprises in the Congressional District 2 primary Tuesday, as both incumbent Democrat Jim Langevin and Republican newcomer Michael Riley came out on top.
“I expect to win,” said Riley about a half hour after the polls closed Tuesday evening.
Reports showed Riley in the lead from early in the night.
Supporters gathered on Tuesday night at a party at O’Rourke’s Tavern in Pawtuxet Village. Red, white and blue balloons adorned the upstairs room where friends, family and staff donned Riley stickers and chatted over food and drink.
Cranston City Council candidate Don Botts was there to show his support for Riley alongside state Senate hopeful Sean Gately.
“Michael Riley is our best chance as a Republican to take the seat,” said Gately, who is running in District 26, Cranston. “I think he’ll get better than 85 percent of the vote.”
Though Riley only walked away with about 65 percent of the vote, it was still a clean win for the first-time Congressional candidate. Coming in a distant second was Kara Russo, who collected about 19 percent of the vote. Russo was trailed by Michael Gardiner, who was projected to be Riley’s top competitor, and Don Robbio.
On Tuesday evening, Gardiner took to Twitter to say he wasn’t entirely surprised by the poll numbers, calling the turnout “abysmal” and an over-representation of Russo’s pro-life following.
“I congratulate Michael Riley on winning the primary,” said Gardiner yesterday in a statement to the Beacon. “He has marshaled the resources to promote his candidacy widely.”
Despite grabbing just 10 percent of the vote, Gardiner said he is “very proud” that 819 voters came out to support him, especially in a low-turnout, four-way race.
“[The votes for Gardiner] clearly stood for a return to a Republican party that embraces and respects our federal government, our Supreme Court and it's role in protecting all constitutional freedoms, and an economic plan that spoke to real Rhode Island concerns without raising the federal debt and protecting legislative imperatives Americans have already agreed upon,” said Gardiner. “This primary turnout could not and did not measure the success of my campaign, and I come away from it with more experience and a stronger voice. Cheers for my supporters.”
But Kara Russo was not too happy with her second place finish.
“I feel that if I had been included in the Republican nomination process and had received the Republican endorsement, I would have won,” she said, saying that Riley received 30 percent of the vote automatically because of his party endorsement.
She also added in an interview yesterday that she and her husband, Chris Young, who ran in the Congressional District 1 primary, were dropping off a letter to the Rhode Island Board of Elections requesting another election. Why? They believe there was tampering with vote numbers in both of their primary races.
“We’re not requesting a recount, we’re requesting another election without electronic voting machines,” Russo read from the letter.
Both Russo and Young believe the electronic voting process is easily manipulated by those who wish to sway numbers, in this case; Young alleges that the state and some municipal board of canvassers were the ones behind the voter fraud.
In all, just over 8,000 votes were cast in the Republican Congressional District 2 primary on Tuesday. To Riley, it didn’t seem like a huge turnout at the polls.
“It was light and I was a little surprised,” he said.
Still, the mood at O’Rourke’s seemed carefree and easy, even early in the night. All were in good spirits, and supporters were confident of Riley’s impending victory.
“I wanted to have a real strong showing today because my team’s been working hard and they want a reward, and the reward is a nice high percentage for Riley,” said Riley on Tuesday.
On the Democratic side, Langevin had no problem pulling in a high percentage of votes against perennial candidate John Matson.
Langevin pulled 74 percent of the 29,402 votes cast in the Democratic Congressional District 2 primary, leaving Matson with 26 percent, roughly 7,600 votes. Matson said in an earlier interview with the Beacon that this would be his fifth and final run for Congress.
Because Congress is still in session, Langevin was away in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, and issued an emailed statement that night in lieu of a victory speech.
“I’m grateful to have received the Democratic nomination and want to especially thank all of the volunteers and supporters who once again have been the foundation of my campaign,” he said.
Langevin went on to say that he would continue to keep the emphasis on job creation, the economy and strengthening the middle class.
“This is in contrast to the current Republican ideology that places tax cuts for the wealthiest few and special interests like big oil,” he said. “I’m fighting for tax cuts for small businesses that create jobs here, efforts to train workers with the skills that match expanding industries, and projects that put people back to work rebuilding our infrastructure.”
With the primaries behind them, the candidates are both now looking toward the general election, where they’ll enter into a three-way race with independent Abel Collins.
“I look forward to continuing to make the case for these priorities in my work in Congress and in this fall’s campaign,” said Langevin.
Even before the official results were in on Tuesday night, Riley had his eyes on the prize: a win in November.
“The real goal, we’re not even there yet,” he said, “The goal is to win this election and to get me into Congress and help fix things for Rhode Island, and turn Rhode Island into a winning attitude rather than a losing attitude.”