Woonsocket’s New GOP Mayor

Woonsocket City Council President Leo Fontaine, a Republican, was elected over Todd Brien to replace Susan Menard as Mayor yesterday. But, as explained by the ProJo’s John Hill, there is something unique about the structure of Woonsocket politics that probably helped Fontaine:

Municipal elections are nonpartisan in Woonsocket; candidates do not run as members of parties; nor does it have districts or wards for its City Council. Like mayoral candidates, all council candidates run citywide and Fontaine had a long record of success there.
Besides wining eight straight terms since 1993, Fontaine had finished first in fields as large as 14 candidates in every council election since 1997.

So, in 8 previous elections, Fontaine was never saddled with the dreaded “R” next to his name on the ballot. This allowed him to build a resume and show his ability, build up name recognition and become a “known” entity. Plus, running city-wide, versus in a distinct ward, allowed him to focus on certain sections of Woonsocket where he knew he could rack up the votes. There’s no denying that it’s a good win for the RI GOP, but I’m not sure if it translates easily in a state where the “R” is like kryptonite.

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Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Wow, so Woonsocket elects people not labels? Ideas not letters? Plans not parties? Imagine that. Heh, imagine if Democrats all around this state had to run on their ideas and beliefs instead of on the coattails of the DEMOCRAT label, as Todd Brien accentuated on his yard signs.
I wonder if there are any state-wide Democrats who would like to get rid of partisan elections and just let the election be decided by people and their ideas.
Didn’t think so.

George
George
11 years ago

So, I guess I should take that email from Gio off the fridge.

Will
11 years ago

It’s not that people don’t know that a candidate is an “R” — it’s that they don’t have the opportunity to reflexively pull a “master lever” (or it’s equivalent) and vote for a party, instead of for a specific candidate. People should be voting on issues which are relevant to their quality of life in your city or town. I’m sorry, what some guy’s doing in South Carolina or California shouldn’t be a consideration when your property taxes are going up here.
Since we also have non-partisan elections in East Providence — and have used them quite successfully — I am a big fan of having local races either be “without part marks” or as an alternative, that we would eliminate the so-called master lever. People vote for people. It’s not like people didn’t know that Leo was a Republican, heck he used to be Chairman of the RIGOP. What helped him win was that he had the ability and the opportunity to amass a record of local achievement over time, which allows us to build up a farm system. If people write you off before you can even join the junior varsity, how the heck are you ever going to get people to run in the big leagues?
By the way, “non=partisan” doesn’t mean that there’s no partisanship. I know that one from experience. The local GOP committees can still donate money or offer volunteers. The important thing is that we have the ability to have people run for office and actually have a chance to win, without unnecessary hindrances to them getting involved in local politics in the first place.

mikeinri
11 years ago

I can’t vote lazily in local elections. It can be easy to go to the polls and use party affiliation to guide your decisions. But in Woonsocket, I am forced to familiarize myself with the candidates. I read what media I could (and there wasn’t much) and searched campaign finance forms to see who was supporting whom. In the end I felt comfortable with a handful for council, and three school committee candidates. All incumbents except one.
And while Will is correct, partisanship still exists, I’m surprised how willing officials are to work with each other here. Leo Fontaine was supported by many Dems, including some elected officials. And many of the incumbents celebrated together on election night. It will be interesting to see if they are able to continue the congenial relationships when Fontaine moves to the executive branch of city government.

JayJ
JayJ
11 years ago

This was a great win for Woonsocket. Even though the elections are non-partisan, as mentioned earlier its no secret that Fontaine is an R. The best part is that his opponent kept saying it over and over.. ie. “my Republican opponent” and went to great lengths to put large print DEMOCRAT on everything he printed out even his signs. Still nothing. A win is a win and a GOP win is even better.

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