RI General Assembly may have 101 Democrats, 11 Republicans

Rhode Island Republicans running for the state legislature didn’t have their worst night ever on Tuesday. But they’re on track to have their second-worst.

The General Assembly will have 101 Democrats, 11 Republicans and one independent if the preliminary results in close races hold once the Board of Elections finally finishes counting ballots. Democrats will control 89% of all seats, giving the party veto-proof majorities.

The too-close-to-call races are House District 30, retiring East Greenwich Rep. Bob Watson’s seat, where Republican Anthony Giarrusso is favored; House District 72, where Democratic challenger Linda Finn is ahead of incumbent Portsmouth Republican Rep. Daniel P. Reilly; and Senate District 21, where Coventry Republican Sen. Nicolas Kettle is favored.

Presuming Giarrusso and Finn win their races, the number of Republicans in the House of Representatives will fall from 10 to six when the chamber reconvenes in January. That would match the 2009-10 caucus in a tie for the tiniest GOP House delegation in Rhode Island history.

Presuming Kettle wins his race, the number of Republicans in the Senate will fall from eight now to five in January. That’s tied as the second-smallest in history, matching the GOP Senate caucuses of 2005-08, 1991-92 and 1977-80; the all-time smallest ones had four members in 2009-10 and 1975-76.

Republicans last controlled the Senate in 1958 and the House in 1940.

WPRI 12 political analyst Joe Fleming noted three Republican senators lost their races and three others had no opponent, which means Republicans actually beat opponents in just two Senate races on Tuesday: North Kingstown Sen. Dawson Hodgson and (probably) Coventry Sen. Nicholas Kettle.

The GOP’s losses in the House were partly a result of its failure to recruit enough candidates. The party had nobody on the ballot in two open seats Republicans won in the November 2010 elections: East Providence Rep. Jack Savage’s district and Portsmouth Rep. Daniel Gordon’s.

House Minority Leader Brian Newberry, who won his re-election race in North Smithfield and Burrillville and had high hopes for Republican challengers’ chances, expressed his dismay on Facebook on Wednesday, saying he was “certainly happy that I won, but given everything else that went on in Rhode Island yesterday it is difficult to be upbeat at the moment.”

Republican North Kingstown Rep. Doreen Costa expressed similar sentiments Tuesday night in an interview with WPRI 12’s Walt Buteau. “When things keep sinking in Rhode Island,” she said, voters “always seem to blame the mean Republicans. Well, we’re going on 76 years now of Democrats controlling the House of Representatives. I don’t know what it’s going to take for people to wake up.”

There was little hope for the Republicans elsewhere on the ballot, either.

The party will continue to hold none of Rhode Island’s five constitutional offices and none of the state’s four seats in Congress come January. The bright spots were probably Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, both of whom won new terms easily.

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