Bissaillon secures Democratic district committee backing in R.I. Senate race

By: - July 31, 2023 2:10 pm

Jake Bissaillon, one of four Democrats running for the Rhode Island Senate District 1, received the Democratic District Committee’s endorsement. (Courtesy Jake Bissaillon)

A prominent staffer in city and state politics secured the Democratic district committee’s endorsement in the upcoming Rhode Island Senate District 1 special election.

The Senate Democratic District Committee for Providence’s Smith Hill neighborhood unanimously voted on July 25 to endorse Jake Bissaillon in the race, according to Robert Ricci, district committee chairman. Bissaillon, who serves as chief of staff to Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, is one of four Democrats who have filed their declaration paperwork for the special election to fill the late Sen. Maryellen Goodwin’s seat. Goodwin died in April at age 58.

Jake is a good friend of former Sen. Goodwin and the committee,” Ricci said. “Members of the committee were 100% in support of him based on his positions to carry forward a lot of the work she did. He’s very well-experienced, well-educated, and worked closely with her.”

Bissaillon previously served as chief of staff for the Providence City Council and then as legal counsel for the senate majority leader. He is also one of five members on the Senate Democratic District Committee for the District 1 seat he is now seeking, though he did not attend or participate in the endorsement vote, he said.

“I am excited to have the endorsement of the Senate 1 District Committee,” he said. “I know the members of that committee have a unique understanding of Maryellen Goodwin and the issues that were important to her. They’ve all known her for quite some time so it really means a lot.”

Other Democratic candidates in the race include Providence Rep. Nathan Biah; 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, who serves as second vice-chair for the Republican Party of Rhode Island, was endorsed by the Rhode Island GOP. There is no Republican Senate 1 District Committee registered with the state.

Joe Powers, Rhode Island GOP chairman, said Powell was an “outstanding candidate.”

Nikoya has proven time and time again to be the frontrunner in regards to taking on this seat,” he said.  “She is beyond qualified.”

Powell ran as an independent against Goodwin for the seat in 2022, but lost with 18.6% of the vote.

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 primary is scheduled for Sept. 5 with a Nov. 7 general 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.