Candidates vying for Paiva Weed’s state Senate seat take part in forum

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Candidates hoping to fill the state Senate seat left vacant by former Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed took part in a public forum Monday night at Jane Pickens Theater in Newport.

Democrats David Allard, Dawn Euer, John Florez and David Hanos, Republican Michael Smith and independent Kimberly Ripoli shared their thoughts on local and statewide issues ahead of the special Democratic primary on July 18, which will be followed by a special election on August 22.

Green Party Candidate Gregory Larson was not in attendance.

The candidates agreed on a number of issues, including the importance of the economy, their opposition to state support for a new PawSox stadium and the beauty of their region. They disagreed on other topics, including charter schools, legalizing marijuana, free tuition at CCRI and Gov. Gina Raimondo’s job performance.

WPRI.com reporter Ted Nesi was one of three moderators of the event, along with Frank Prosnitz and Ian Donnis.

The District 13 seat – which covers parts of Newport and Jamestown – was held by Paiva Weed for 22 years. Earlier this year, she left her post to become president of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island. She was succeeded as president by Sen. Dominick Ruggerio, D-North Providence, but her seat in the chamber has since been vacant.

Ryan Belmore, owner of WhatsUpNewp.com and organizer of the forum, said the race is drawing a lot of interest.

“At first I didn’t expect a summer primary and summer election was going to get a lot of attention, but we’re expecting more than 400 people tonight,” he said Monday. “The theater holds 500, so we’re going to come pretty darn close to filling up he theater tonight.”

Clerks in the two communities said there have been more than 800 requests for absentee ballots for the special primary.