Candidates lining up for vacant District 68 seat

Speakman, Tyska, Hunt, Sweeney all planning to run for seat left vacant by Laufton Ascencao

Posted 12/6/18

Candidates are lining up to run for the House District 68 seat left vacant by Laufton Ascencao's sudden resignation from the seat he won a month ago.

Since Mr. Ascencao released a statement last …

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Candidates lining up for vacant District 68 seat

Speakman, Tyska, Hunt, Sweeney all planning to run for seat left vacant by Laufton Ascencao


Candidates are lining up to run for the House District 68 seat left vacant by Laufton Ascencao's sudden resignation from the seat he won a month ago.

Since Mr. Ascencao released a statement last evening, shortly after 5 p.m., at least four potential candidates have confirmed they will run for the seat. They are:

  • Libertarian William Hunt of Warren, who lost to Mr. Ascencao in the November General Election;
  • Democrat Andy Tyska of Bristol, who lost to Mr. Ascencao in the Democratic Primary in September;
  • Democrat and Bristol Town Councilor Timothy Sweeney, who was just elected to his fourth term on the council;
  • Democrat June Speakman of Warren, who just lost in the race for Warren Town Council.

William Hunt

Mr. Hunt, who earned a little more than a third of the votes cast in the November election for the seat representing parts of Bristol and Warren, believes he should be considered the frontrunner.

"I did a lot of work leading up the election, and I think I got a lot of name recognition," Mr. Hunt said. "As the only one with a name on the ballot, I think I should be considered the favorite."

Asked about the surprise turnaround in the House disrict, Mr. Hunt said, "I had questions about his integrity and his reasons for running … So I can’t say I’m surprised. But I am surprised about the silly nature of it."

Mr. Ascencao gave up the seat after admitting that he lied about sending a poltical mailer on behalf of Warren Town Council candidates, and then fabricated a check and invoice in an attempt to falsify campaign finance records.

"When you don’t have experience, when you’re young, you do stupid things," Mr. Hunt said. "Hopefully this can be a learning experience for him."

Andy Tyska

After he lost in the Democratic Primary, Mr. Tyska did not commit to running for political office again, but he said he was worried about the future of the disrict and about the tactics that were used to defeat him. On Thursday morning, he said he would have certainly been running for office again two years from now, but this opportunity presented itself much sooner than anticipated.

"My intentions right now are to run," he said. "I have a lot invested in this community, and I want to be in a position where I can continue to preserve the good things that are going on." Mr. Tyska is the president of Bristol Marine and has been actively involved in business development, the marine trades and educational efforts for almost two decades.

Timothy Sweeney

Bristol resident Timothy Sweeney, a three-term town council member and lifelong Bristol resident, declared his intentions Thursday morning.

“This is an interesting and challenging time for our community,” said Mr. Sweeney. “We need leaders who promote and practice transparency, provide clear communication, engage regularly with their constituents, and provide support for the people of Rhode Island. We need honest leaders. It would be an honor and a privilege to represent the people of Warren and Bristol in the House of Representatives.”

Mr. Sweeney works in the private sector as a business analyst. Sweeney was first elected to the Bristol Town Council in 2012 as a newcomer to politics and public service. He has been serving in the role of vice chairman since his first re-election in 2014. 

“I am deeply committed to public service. I love my community. It has been an honor to serve as a member of the Bristol Town Council and I look forward to the opportunity to serve Warren and Bristol at the State House,” said Mr. Sweeney.

June Speakman

Ms. Speakman, a longtime Barrington resident and member of the Barrington Town Council, moved to Warren several years ago. The Roger Williams University political science professor ran an unscussessful campaign for a seat on the Warren Town Council this year.

Ms. Speakman said it didn’t take her long to decide to run for the seat once she learned that Mr. Ascencao was declining his seat. She said holding a seat in the General Assembly has long been a goal of hers.

“When Laufton stepped aside, the opportunity sadly arose again,” she said. “I do have familiarity with the process, the policies, I have good connections with the General Assembly, the state government and our federal delegation. So it made sense to go for this.”

Ms. Speakman said she had originally intended to run for the District 68 before deciding on the council. Prior to the election season, she had seen an analysis of the district that indicated that it would be a difficult seat to win, partly given the number of voters in the district who live in Bristol as opposed to Warren. But the Ascencao development caused her to reconsider:

“You don’t like to get into a race that you don’t think you can win,” she said. But “I’ve learned a lot from watching other politicians in difficult races. If you get out and knock on doors and listen, you can represent the voters well."

Though there are more Distirct 68 voters in Bristol than Warren, she said, “Bristol and Warren share a lot of interests. They share a school district, they share a water authority. I think a representative whose house is in Warren can represent the needs of Bristol very well. I am delighted to live in Warren. I love it and I have fully embraced it.”

The last 18 hours have been a whirlwind, she said, but she said she has been humbled by the number of people who reached out to her Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, encouraging her to run.

“It’s always nice to be asked to the dance,” she said.

The district must hold a special election to fill the vacant seat. The date and details will become more clear in the coming days.

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