Five candidates signal intent to run for RI Senate seat

Special election fills opening of late Sen. Maryellen Goodwin

By: - July 28, 2023 4:25 pm

Five candidates have filed paperwork declaring their intent to run for Rhode Island Senate District 1. ((\Photo by Janine L. Weisman/Rhode Island Current)

Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District isn’t the only competitive, special election on the horizon.

A battle for the open state Senate District 1 seat is also gearing up, with five candidates filing their declaration paperwork with the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s office by the Friday, July 28, 4 p.m. deadline. 

The upcoming special election marks the first time Providence’s Smith Hill neighborhood will have a new state senator in nearly 40 years. Sen. Maryellen Goodwin died in April at age 58, after a four-year-battle with cancer.

Four Democrats have filed to replace Goodwin: Providence Rep. Nathan Biah, who dropped out of the congressional race to instead seek the state Senate spot; Jake Bissaillon, chief of staff to Senate President Dominick Ruggerio; Mario Mancebo, who ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2010 and 2014; and Michelle Rivera, policy director at Progreso Latino. One Republican, Nikoya Powell, also declared her intent to run. Powell serves as second vice-chair for the Republican Party of Rhode Island.

There are no independent candidates in the race. 

State senators serve two-year terms and earn $16,800 a year.

A special election is planned for the open seat in Rhode Island’s Senate District 1. (Courtesy Rhode Island Department of State)

Each of the five candidates still has to secure 100 signatures from certified voters within the district to qualify for the ballot. The signature deadline is Aug. 8.

The district included 14,300 registered voters as of July, according to state data. More than half (56%) were registered as Democrats, compared with 7% Republican and 37% unaffiliated.

About half of those voters also live within the 1st Congressional District, meaning their ballots will also include the contenders for the special election to replace former U.S. Rep. David Cicilline. 

Both the state and congressional seat primaries are scheduled for Sept. 5, with a Nov. 7 special election.

Eligible residents have until Aug. 6 to register to vote in the primary or change their party affiliation. More information about the upcoming elections and deadlines is available at the Department of State website. 


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Nancy Lavin
Nancy Lavin

Nancy Lavin is senior reporter covering state politics, energy and environmental issues for the Rhode Island Current.