Rep. Doreen Costa won’t seek re-election

Fourth Republican announces retirement as Wednesday deadline looms for candidates

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Yet another incumbent Republican state representative has decided not to seek re-election.

State Rep. Doreen Costa informed friends and colleagues on Monday that she will not run for another term, fulfilling a pledge to serve only three, Rhode Island Republican Party Chairman Brandon Bell confirmed to Eyewitness News. Instead she will seek a seat on the North Kingstown Town Council, he said.

Rep. Doreen Costa
Rep. Doreen Costa

Costa, R-North Kingstown, has represented House District 31 since she was first elected in 2010 as a prominent local member of the Tea Party movement. She has served as vice-chair of the House Judiciary Committee under Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello since he took over in 2014. In April, she won election to the Republican National Convention as a Trump delegate.

Two candidates have already filed to run for Costa’s seat: Democrat Julie Casimiro and independent Liam MacNiallais. (Casimiro lost to Costa two years ago, 53% to 47%, and had been seeking a rematch.)

Bell said a new Republican candidate, Michael Marfeo, is also entering the race in an effort to hold Costa’s seat for the GOP. Costa has endorsed Marfeo, he said.

Wednesday is the deadline for candidates to file if they want to run for office in Rhode Island this year.

Republicans currently control just 12 of the House’s 75 seats, and Costa is the fourth of those 12 incumbents to opt against seeking re-election. Warwick Rep. Joe Trillo, Portsmouth Rep. Daniel P. Reilly and Cumberland Rep. Karen MacBeth already announced their retirements. (MacBeth switched her affiliation from Democratic to Republican earlier this year.)

By contrast, only one House Democrat – Rep. Helio Melo of East Providence – has announced plans to retire so far, though more names could surface as Wednesday’s deadline draws closer.

It remains unclear how many incumbent lawmakers will run unopposed this year. Figures released by the secretary of state’s office at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday showed contested races for only 34 of 75 House seats and only 14 of 38 Senate seats, though those numbers are expected to grow.

Among those already drawing challengers: Mattiello, D-Cranston, who is arguably the most powerful politician in Rhode Island. Two Republicans – Steven Frias and Shawna Lawton – have both pulled papers to run for Mattiello’s seat in House District 15, and the winner of their primary would face him in November.

Mattiello’s second-in-command, House Majority Leader John DeSimone, has two opponents so far for his seat in Providence’s District 5: Democrat Marcia Ranglin-Vassell and independent Roland Lavallee.

State Rep. John Carnevale, a Democrat under fire after a Target 12 investigation into his residency, had not pulled papers to seek re-election as of Tuesday evening, despite telling reporters earlier this month he will run again. Two Democrats – Ramon Perez and Lisa Scorpio – have already said they’ll challenge him for his House District 13 seat in Providence.

Other Democrats who’ve made headlines recently are also being challenged. State Rep. Anastasia Williams, a Democrat who made major ethics filing errors and runs a troubled nonprofit, is seeking another term in House District 9; she faces Democrat Michael Gazdacko and Republican Ana Santana. State Sen. Jamie Doyle, another Democrat with ethics filing issues, had not yet filed for re-election at midday Tuesday but would face Democrat Matt Fecteau in Senate District 8.

Seven local communities have incumbent mayors seeking re-election – Central Falls, Cranston, Cumberland, North Providence, Pawtucket, Warwick and Woonsocket – and all but Cumberland’s William Murray have at least one declared opponent. Multiple candidates are also seeking the two congressional seats currently held by Jim Langevin and David Cicilline.

Just because a candidate pulls papers to run, however, doesn’t mean he or she will definitely appear on the ballot later this year – they still have to collect enough signatures over the coming weeks to qualify.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes The Saturday Morning Post and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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