PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Veteran state Rep. Jan Malik, who lost his Democratic primary to progressive challenger Jason Knight last month, confirmed Monday he’s launching a write-in campaign in an effort to hold onto his House seat.
And Malik may not be the only one: House Majority Leader John DeSimone, who lost his own primary to progressive challenger Marcia Ranglin-Vassell on Sept. 13, is widely said to be flirting with a write-in campaign of his own. DeSimone, D-Providence, has not returned multiple phone calls over the last week and a half, and a House spokesman had no information.
But one voter, Rob Christina, said on Twitter he lives in DeSimone’s district and found a paper promoting his write-in candidacy over the weekend:
Malik, D-Warren, has held his House District 67 seat since 1996 and is well-known as the owner of an eponymous liquor store. But his district was redrawn after the 2010 Census, and Knight, a Barrington lawyer, managed to defeat him in the primary by 194 votes.
“I’ll be honest with you – after the election I thought I was all done, after 20 years,” Malik told WPRI.com. “But I can’t believe the outcry of people in Warren and Barrington – people coming to see me, veterans, too, the letters I receive.”
He said he made his decision after seeing a debate between the two remaining candidates – Knight and Libertarian hopeful Daryl Gould – and then seeing Knight fail to receive the Warren Democratic Town Committee’s endorsement. “That was basically the turning point,” he said.
“I know this is an uphill battle, a big uphill battle,” Malik said, noting that voters have to not only write in his name but fill in the oval next to the write-in candidate line in order for their vote to be counted in his favor.
In an email, Knight said: “I’m proud that I won the trust of the voters in the Democratic primary. Mr. Malik can do whatever he wants but I am going to continue to reach out and meet as many voters as I can between now and Election Day and earn their votes.”
Gould, for his part, said he wasn’t shocked by Malik’s decision.
“Being in Warren, it’s a small town, and so the rumors were out there for the past week or two,” he told WPRI.com. He noted that unlike other states, Rhode Island doesn’t have a so-called “spoilsport” law that bars a candidate who lost in the primary from trying again in the general as a write-in.
That’s fine with Gould, though. “As a Libertarian, I believe that democracy works better with choice,” he said.
Malik said he has reasons for opposing both his rivals.
Of Knight, he said: “Like it or not, he’s a progressive liberal. I’m not. I’m a moderate.” Malik said he’s proud of the various tax breaks passed in recent years under House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and wanted to continue working with the speaker, who’s facing his own tough re-election challenge from Republican Steven Frias out in Cranston.
He also acknowledged his positions on social issues – including his opposition to abortion and same sex-marriage, as well as his A+ rating from the National Rifle Association – likely hurt him in the Democratic primary. (“I don’t even know how I got the A+,” he added.)
As for Gould, Malik said: “What’s he going to accomplish up there as a Libertarian? There’s nothing he can accomplish. He’s all by himself at the State House.”
Gould said he understood that sentiment, but countered that as a Libertarian, he might be able to bridge the gap between the House’s Democrats and Republicans because he leaned more toward the former on social issues and the latter on economic issues. He also said his decision on which party to caucus with will be driven in part by whether Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson receives 5% of the vote, which would grant the party official major-party status and bar Gould from caucusing with one of the two main parties.
“My goal is to represent the district within the best of my capabilities, and I don’t see how being on a team is going to help me any more than if I weren’t,” he said.
Malik and DeSimone were two of six incumbent General Assembly Democrats who lost their primaries last month. The general election is Nov. 8.