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Romney sweeps RI primary but Paul picks up delegates

April 25, 2012

In an election where very few Rhode Islanders bothered to cast ballots, the state’s Republican voters fell in line behind Mitt Romney on a northeastern primary day when the former Massachusetts governor swept all five presidential primaries, cementing his grasp on the Republican nomination for the White House.

But Texas Congressman Ron Paul, the libertarian tribune, won  four national convention delegates from Rhode Island, the only Paul delegates elected in the five states that held primaries Tuesday. Voter turnout was a rock-bottom 3 percent in an election that featured no contests of any  significance. Turnout was in sharp contrast to the 2008 primaries, when Democrats had a record state primary turnout for the showdown between then-U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that was won by Clinton.

Rhode Island was the lone GOP primary state voting Tuesday that selected delegates on a proportional basis, which gave Paul his path for delegates. The other four states followed the winner-take-all system, which favored Romney.

Paul campaigned  personally in the state, getting an enthusiastic welcome at a University of Rhode Island rally last week. Romney too, stumped in RI at an event in Warwick focused on the economy.

With 100 percent of  R.I. GOP precincts reporting, Romney had 63 percent, Paul had 24 percent, former Speaker Newt Gingrich had 6 percent and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum captured 6 percent. No other candidate broke 1 percent.

President Barack Obama was the only Democratic candidate. He received 83 percent running unopposed and voters gave an uncommitted delegate slate 14 percent, which is not enough to meet the party’s threshold for a convention delegate. About 3 percent of Democrats choose a write-in candidate. Thus all 22 Democratic delegates chosen Tuesday will go to the Charlotte Democratic National Convention this summer pledged to the president.

On the Republican side, it appeared that of the 16 delegates to the Tampa Republican National Convention this summer picked by RI Republicans Tuesday, 12 will be allocated to Romney and 4  to Congressman Paul.

With both presidential nominating contests over, this year’s RI primary was a club election notable only for anemic turnout and jousts among Republican and Democratic party activists and insiders over the convention delegate seats. Familiar political names dominated the delegate selections yesterday, with the exception of the Paul forces, a group of hardy outsiders who gathered at the Long Shots tavern in West Warwick to celebrate their candidate’s delegate breakthrough as a Boston Red Sox game was broadcast on a television above the bar. (The Sawx won).

Paul needed at least 15 percent of the vote to win delegates and he did better. Paul has no chance of being the presidential candidate but his campaign would like to have some influence on the GOP party platform and such convention perks as delegate seating and perhaps a prime time television  speaking role for the Texas congressman.

Twenty-two Democratic delegates were elected Tuesday, with six women and five men chosen from each of the state’s two congressional districts. The biggest Democratic winner in the delegate races was Myrth York, the former Providence state senator and three-time Democratic gubernatorial candidate. York finished first by a substantial margin in the 1st Congressional District. The other five women chosen from the 1st District were: Julie Meyers, Anne Connor, Onna Moniz-John, Mary Gasbarro and Barrington Town Councilwoman June Speakman. In the 1st District, former Providence Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr., led the voting for men, followed by Brett Smiley, Tom Coderre, chief of staff to Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, Gerald Carvalho and Providence City Councilman David Salvatore.

In the 2nd Congressional District, State Sen. Josh Miller of  Cranston led all Democratic delegates. Miller, Patrick Fogarty, Rep. Frank Ferri of Warwick, Providence City Council President Mike Solomon and Mark Steven Weiner of  East Greenwich were the male delegate winners. In the 2nd District, the women chosen were Rep. Teresa Tanzi, D-Narragansett, Elaine Prior, L. Susan Weiner, a longtime Democratic fundraiser, Elisa Pollard, Helen Taylor and Zoe Weiner, Susan Weiner’s daughter.

The Romney-pledged delegates are a roster of household Republican names. In the 1st Congressional District, the leader in delegate voting was John Robitaille, the GOP’s unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2010. Finishing second was Robitaille’s spouse, Lynda Adams-Robitaille. Other top-finishing Romney delegates include State Rep. Daniel Reilly of Portsmouth, Ann Lynn Gallagher and Barbara Ann Fenton. Paul delegates in the 1st District include Richard Ford and Dan Harrop, who ran unsuccessfully as the GOP candidate for Providence mayor and perhaps Douglas Berge.

The Republican delegate race in the 2nd District was led by Cranston Mayor Alan Fung, followed closely by former Gov. Donald Carcieri, a longtime Romney stalwart, and his spouse, former First Lady Suzanne Carcieri. In fourth place was Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, with Ruth Zaccaria, spouse of GOP state Chairman Mark Zaccaria, finishing fifth. In sixth place was Rep. Doreen Costa, R-North Kingstown. For Paul delegate in the 2nd District, Andrew McNulty led the balloting, followed by Erik Turgeon and David Aiello.

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