PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello is backing the progressive challengers who defeated House Majority Leader John DeSimone and state Rep. Jan Malik in last month’s primaries even though the two have launched write-in campaigns to keep their seats.
Mattiello’s campaign spokeswoman, Patti Doyle, confirmed he is supporting the party nominees rather than the two veteran Democrats, who have been his allies at the State House and are closer to him ideologically.
DeSimone, D-Providence, lost his primary for the Democratic nomination in House District 5 to Marcia Ranglin-Vassell. Malik, D-Warren, lost the nomination in House District 67 to Jason Knight. The incumbents have held those seats since 1992 and 1996, respectively.
DeSimone has been Mattiello’s No. 2 since the two men formed an alliance to seize the House leadership following the sudden fall of Gordon Fox in 2014. Malik is a reliable leadership supporter who said Monday he is running in part because he wants to continue his work with Mattiello on reducing taxes.
DeSimone will formally announce his write-in campaign at a news conference on Wednesday in Hopkins Square, according to an advisory from his campaign, which said he will “fight back against out-of-state special interests who spent tens of thousands of dollars in the local primary election.” Ranglin-Vassell had the support of progressive groups, including a gun-control organization, that spent heavily against DeSimone in the primary.
The Democratic Party is also backing Ranglin-Vassell and Knight in the general election, spokeswoman Ann Gooding said. They “won fair and square,” she said.
The two write-in campaigns will turn both House elections into three-way races. In District 5, DeSimone will face both Democratic nominee Ranglin-Vassell and Republican nominee Roland Lavallee. In District 67, Malik will face both Democratic nominee Knight and Libertarian nominee Daryl Gould.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Speaker Mattiello is backing the write-in candidates; he is backing Ranglin-Vassell and Knight, who won the Democratic primaries.