Gay-marriage supporters tried and failed to make a breakthrough in the Rhode Island Senate during Tuesday’s primaries, winning just two of seven targeted races and coming up short in their marquee effort to knock off Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael McCaffrey.
Both McCaffrey, whose committee has never taken a vote on gay marriage, and another endangered incumbent – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dan DaPonte – survived spirited challenges. Their victories will bolster the leadership team of Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, who succeeded Joe Montalbano in 2008.
That puts Paiva Weed on a collision course with her fellow Democrat House Speaker Gordon Fox, who told WPRI 12 earlier this year he will call a vote on gay marriage in early 2013. Fox spokesman Larry Berman said that hasn’t changed.
“Speaker Fox has repeatedly stated that he will bring marriage equality for a vote in the House early in the 2013 session,” Berman told WPRI.com on Wednesday. “Several pro-marriage candidates were elected yesterday and that strengthens Speaker Fox’s vote in the House.”
“The results of any Senate races are irrelevant to his pledge to bring marriage equality legislation to a House vote,” he added. Senate spokesman Greg Pare confirmed earlier this week that Paiva Weed’s position on same-sex marriage hasn’t changed, though she’s never ruled out a vote.
Fight Back RI, the gay-marriage group that endorsed candidates, notched two victories in Senate races. Adam Satchell defeated Sen. Michael Pinga 58% to 42% and Ryan Pearson defeated James Spooner 68% to 32%. But Bob DaSilva, Lewis Pryeor, Gene Dyszlewski, Laura Pisaturo and Dave Gorman all lost.
The House was a different story – seven of Fight Back RI’s 12 candidates won, including non-incumbents Joseph Almeida, Gregg Amore and Marvin Abney, while Libby Kimzey, Jon Restivo, Peter Petrarca, Michael Morin and Charles Tsonos all lost. Fight Back RI’s Ray Sullivan said the group had “a tangible impact.”
“We changed the discourse of this campaign and we elevated the discussion around an important civil rights issue,” Sullivan said, citing two senators – DaPonte and Central Falls’ Elizabeth Crowley – who announced support for same-sex marriage during their races and McCaffrey’s statements about the process.
“There is an absolute path – a demonstrable path – to 19 votes in the Senate, and now with Senator McCaffrey having said on your air that he has no problem with … calling a vote, we see great opportunity in the general election and look forward to helping elect a pro-equality majority in the Senate and having the vote occur in 2013,” he said.
People for Rhode Island’s Future, a new gay-marriage advocacy group backed by the Denver tech magnate Tim Gill, also lost five of the six races it targeted on Tuesday after spending about $36,500 on them. Satchell was the only one of that group’s endorsed primary candidates who won.