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.