PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A former three-time gubernatorial candidate, a former state senator, a one-time commissioner of education and a sitting member of the Providence School Board are among the thousands of Ward 3 voters who have signed a petition seeking to recall embattled Councilman Kevin Jackson.
The list of more than 2,500 East Side residents who signed the petition to remove Jackson from office also includes a former councilman from the neighborhood, at least one current city employee and some of the city’s most well-known activists, according to an Eyewitness News analysis of 305 pages of signatures obtained through a public records request.
“This is a grassroots effort with broad support from throughout the ward,” Patricia Kammerer, who is leading the recall effort, said. “Voters from Mount Hope, Summit, Observatory and Blackstone neighborhoods all signed the petition in great numbers. We heard expressions of appreciation and thanks from every corner of the ward.”
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Kammerer launched the recall effort after Jackson, a Democrat who has represented Ward 3 since 1995, was arrested by State Police in May and indicted by a statewide grand jury in July. The councilman has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors allege Jackson embezzled $127,153 from the Providence Cobras youth track-and-field team, an organization that received more than $67,000 in taxpayer-funded city donations between 2005 and 2015. He is also accused of using $12,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses.
Among the prominent names who signed the recall petition were Myrth York, a former state senator who ran unsuccessfully for governor three times; former state Sen. Rhoda Perry, former state Education Commissioner Peter McWalters; and Mark Santow, a member of the Providence School Board.
Others signing the petition included former Ward 3 Councilman Donald “Danny” Lopes; Caitlin Molina, who runs the Providence Talks educational program out of City Hall; John Marion, the executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island; former state senate candidate Maryellen Butke; Mark Binder, a former candidate for state representative; journalist Steve Ahlquist; and transportation advocate James Kennedy.
At least six residents who live on the same street as Jackson – Jenkins Street – signed the petition, including a voter who lives in the same apartment building.
No sitting elected official who lives in Ward 3 joined the recall, including Congressman David Cicilline, Gov. Gina Raimondo, Treasurer Seth Magaziner and state Rep. Aaron Regunberg.
Kammerer and others leading the recall appear to have taken advantage of the large Election Day turnout in Ward 3, as the majority of signatures were collected on Nov. 8. Jackson’s attorneys attempted to block to group from collecting signatures that day, but the Providence Board of Canvassers allowed the recall process to proceed.
The city charter requires that 20% of a ward’s registered voters sign a petition in order to trigger a recall election for a council member. While it appears that Kammerer has submitted enough signatures to the city clerk to force an up-or-down vote on Jackson’s future, the councilman’s lawyers say they’re likely to challenge the list. (Jackson also has filed an unresolved objection to the 300 signatures used to initiate the recall process last September.)