EngageRI wades into three primary races with mailing to voters

Engage Rhode Island’s leaders were serious about sticking around.

The deep-pocketed 501(c)4 advocacy group that helped pass last year’s pension overhaul sent out campaign fliers this month in three districts with closely contested Democratic primary races for General Assembly.

Two of the mailers attack incumbent Reps. Spencer Dickinson of South Kingstown and Rene Menard of Lincoln for voting against the law. Dickinson’s opponent is South Kingstown Councilwoman Kathleen Fogarty, who backed the law, and Menard’s is Cumberland Councilwoman Mia Ackerman, a staunch supporter of the changes whose website specifically links her candidacy with Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s policies.

(The two women use almost identical language on their respective campaign sites, telling voters they’ll work for “your interests” rather than “special interests.”)

The third mailer praises East Providence Sen. Dan DaPonte, who’s trying to hold off a challenge from Rep. Roberto DaSilva, a “no” vote on the pension changes. It says DaPonte “played a pivotal role” in passing the “historic” measure in his role as Senate Finance Committee chairman.

As a 501(c)4, EngageRI isn’t allowed to explicitly urge a vote for or against the three Democratic lawmakers – the fliers just urge their constituents to call and share their opinions. Nevertheless, the message will almost certainly resonate as voters weigh their options before the Sept. 11 primary.

EngageRI spokesman Jon Duffy declined to say how much the organization spent on the mailers, but said they went out Aug. 8 to likely Democratic primary voters in each of the three districts, which were chosen for the competitiveness of the primary challenges.

“We’ve always said we will continue to be involved in the pension reform conversation, we would support those people that supported pension reform and point out those who didn’t,” Duffy told WPRI.com.

“I think you’ll see more,” he added. “It’s issue advocacy.” Here’s what the mailers look like:

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