PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – After endorsing House Majority Leader John DeSimone in the Democratic primary, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has declined to support the veteran lawmaker’s write-in campaign against Democratic nominee Marcia Ranglin-Vassell.
Elorza confirmed Tuesday he will not back DeSimone’s longshot bid to keep the House District 5 seat he has held since 1993. DeSimone kicked off his write-in campaign at an event Wednesday in the city’s North End.
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and the state Democratic Party have also endorsed Ranglin-Vassell after supporting DeSimone in the primary.
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Ranglin-Vassell, a Providence school teacher, stunned political observers when she beat DeSimone by 21 votes in the Sept. 13 primary. She ran to the left of the more conservative DeSimone, campaigning on tougher gun laws and increasing the minimum wage.
In a statement Wednesday, Ranglin-Vassell said the voters have already spoken.
“I’m disappointed that John is ignoring their will but I will run my campaign on the issues that defined the primary: the need to raise our minimum wage to $15 an hour so families can provide for themselves, the need for ethical oversight of our government to fight corruption and restore trust, and the need to implement commonsense gun reform to help make our streets safe and to protect our children,” she said.
DeSimone was considered one of Elorza’s biggest allies at the State House since the mayor took office in 2015. Elorza chose to withhold support of other incumbent lawmakers facing difficult primary challenges, but he endorsed the majority leader.
If DeSimone does not return to the House, Providence could be at risk of not having a speaker or majority leader who represents the capital city for the first time since 2002, when the chamber’s top two posts were held by Speaker John Harwood of Pawtucket and Majority Leader Gerald Martineau of Woonsocket.
The city’s influence in the House grew in late 2002 when Rep. Gordon Fox was elected majority leader. He became speaker in 2010, but was forced to resign in 2014 after the State House was raided by state and federal law enforcement. Fox is now serving a three-year prison sentence for accepting bribes.
Following Fox’s resignation, Mattiello became speaker and DeSimone was elected majority leader.