By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
Rhode Island politicians who support environmental issues did well in the 2018 mid-term election. Of the 39 candidates for state and federal office endorsed by the environmental advocacy group Clean Water Action only four lost on Election Day.
The endorsed candidates were selected because they supported reducing single-use plastics and plastic pollution, protecting drinking water and water habitat, and advancing the state toward 100 percent renewable energy.
Several were first-time candidates. In the state Senate, Val Lawson, D-East Providence, and Bridget Valverde, D-East Greenwich, won. Winners in the House were Rebecca Kislak, D-Providence; Justine Caldwell, D-Warwick; Liana Cassar, D-Barrington; Laufton Asencao, D-Bristol; and Terri Cortvriend, D-Portsmouth. John “Jack” Lyle Jr., R-Lincoln, formerly served in the Senate. He was the only Republican endorsed by Clean Water Action.
Lauren Niedel-Gresh, D-Foster, lost to incumbent House Republican Michael Chippendale. Niedel-Gresh is a vocal opponent of the proposed Burrillville power plant and active in the grassroots efforts to halt the fossil-fuel project.
The General Assembly lost its two sponsors of legislation for a statewide carbon tax. Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, left his seat to run for lieutenant governor. His seat was filled by Kislak. Sen. Jeanine Calkin, D-Warwick, lost her primary to Caldwell, another CWA-backed candidate.
In Washington, D.C., Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. David Cicilline, and Rep. Jim Langevin won with support from CWA. Gov. Gina Raimondo and Treasurer Seth Magaziner also won with backing from CWA.
Whitehouse had some interesting vote tallies. Although he won the state handily, with 61 percent of the vote to 38 percent for Republican Robert Flanders, Whitehouse lost in many rural towns such as Burrillville, Coventry, Exeter, Foster, Richmond, and West Greenwich. Most were lost by a handful of votes. Whitehouse lost Richmond by one vote and North Smithfield by three votes.
Johnathan Berard, Rhode Island state director for Clean Water Action, noted that the General Assembly increased the number of so-called “environmental champions.”
“Hopefully, this means that we will get some meaningful legislation to fight climate change, address our growing waste-related issues, and protect open space and the state's water resources over the next two years,” Berard said.
He said Raimondo's big campaign promise was to establish statewide enforceable carbon-emissions reductions.
“With her re-election, we look forward to working with her to fulfill this promise and put Rhode Island on an accelerated path to a 100 percent renewable energy powered future,” he said.