Ferri's win -- what does it mean?

UPDATE: A little housekeeping.

Although I should have noted that this House district includes just a part of Warwick, the central point -- about the sclerotic nature of our civic life -- remains on-target.

. . . .

As we now know, Democrat Frank Ferri easily outpaced Republican Jonathan Wheeler in the Warwick special election yesterday to fill the House seat vacated by Peter Ginaitt. The triumph by Ferri, who is openly gay, is a victory for progressives and it offers further proof that sexual orientation is not a huge deal even in a state where many elected officials are social conservatives.

N4N was curious about the broader meaning of this result, so let's do a media scan:

Cynthia Needham in the ProJo:

Many of the voters who came out for Ferri used words like “trust” and “honesty” in describing why they voted for the Democrat.

Rachael Frazier, who bundled up her young daughter and headed to John Greene Elementary School, said she voted for Ferri because he impressed her by calling her on numerous occasions and speaking with her at length about the environment, something she calls a priority.

“I really like his campaign and how he’s doing things,” Frazier said.

It was that message of connecting with constituents that resonated with voters yesterday, more so than Wheeler’s promise of fiscal reform, or Pisaturo’s pledge of experience.

Matt Jerzyk/RI Future:

Needless to say, this election has been a wake-up call for those who said that a progressive can't take on the Democratic and the Republican establishment and come out on top.

Russell J. Moore in the Warwick Beacon:

More than anything, Ferri’s organizational skills may have been the factor that carried the day. Ferri had approximately 100 campaign workers. Ladouceur had a much smaller group, approximately 20 volunteers, and Thompson had even less.


Ferri shared similar stances on the issues as his opponents, and none of the candidates offered many detailed specifics on how they would implement their agendas. All three candidates vowed to foster economic development, maintain the environment, find ways to decrease health care costs and keep taxes low.


But it was Ferri who had the organization to get his message out. He had the full-fledged support of the members of the Riverview Neighborhood Association, which contains 35 families that live in the district (he serves as its treasurer), the National Education Alliance, environmental groups and the gay community, a small but devoted and hard-working special interest group. 

These are all valid points. However, what most strikes me is how the nearly 20 percent turnout (with Ferri taking 53 percent of the vote, or 896 tallies) was, according to Needham, "unusually heavy for a special election."

Warwick is Rhode Island's second-largest city, and you can win a legislative election with 900 votes?

That's pretty pathetic.

Clean Elections might not be a perfect solution, but something needs to be done to stimulate more interest in our civic life.

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