Twists and turns as seven seek Ascencao's District 68 seat

Kenneth Marshall files as Independent; Joseph DePasquale failed to get papers in on time; Nicki Ann Tyska will run for seat lost by husband in Democratic primary last fall

By Ted Hayes
Posted 12/28/18

The race for the House of Representatives District 68 seat left open by the departure this month of disgraced Representative-elect Laufton Ascencao took several unexpected turns Friday, when seven …

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Twists and turns as seven seek Ascencao's District 68 seat

Kenneth Marshall files as Independent; Joseph DePasquale failed to get papers in on time; Nicki Ann Tyska will run for seat lost by husband in Democratic primary last fall

Posted

The race for the House of Representatives District 68 seat left open by the departure this month of disgraced Representative-elect Laufton Ascencao took several unexpected turns Friday, when seven candidates — three Independents, three Democrats and a Libertarian — filed their official declarations of candidacy with the Bristol and Warren Board of Canvassers.

Meanwhile, an eighth candidate who had sought to run failed to get his candidacy papers in by the deadline Friday afternoon.

According to Warren Town Clerk Julie Coelho and Vincent Calenda, chairman of the Warren Board of Canvassers, the following candidates will run for the seat:

  • Warren Democrat June Speakman, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Warren Town Council this fall.
  • Warren Democrat John Hanley, who was re-elected to his seat on the Warren Town Council this fall.
  • Independent James McCanna, a former Warren Town Council member.
  • Current District 68 Rep. Kenneth Marshall, who had held the office as a Democrat but filed his intent to run as an Independent Friday.
  • Independent Nicki Tyska, a Bristol resident whose husband Andy Tyska, a Democrat, lost to Mr. Ascencao in the Democratic primary last fall.
  • Democrat Richard Ruggiero, a former member of the Bristol Town Council.
  • Warren Libertarian William Hunt, who lost to Mr. Ascencao in the General Election last November.

The race
Following his decision not to run for re-election last fall, Rep. Marshall said Friday, he never thought he’d run for the seat again. But following Mr. Ascencao’s departure, he said, he reconsidered and also rethought his political affiliation before finally deciding to switch from Democrat to Independent:

“I have painfully witnessed over the last several years how some newly-minted self-proclaimed progressive Democrats have personally attacked and manipulated our election laws and Rhode Island voters’ minds,” he said. Switching to an Independent “will allow all voters to have a choice in the (special) election whom they want to represent them.”

On Friday evening, Ms. Tyska said that she too will run as an Independent. Her husband, Bristol Marine owner Andy Tyska, ran for the seat as a Democrat before falling in last Fall’s primary.

Ms. Tyska, the executive director of the East Bay Food Pantry, founder of Hair, Heart and Soul and a lifelong Bristol resident, said she believes she can do a lot of good at the State House and decided late this week to run. When her husband told her that he would not seek to run for the seat a second time, she decided to put her name into the mix:
Running “had been something that I had thought about but did not vocalize because obviously I wasn’t going to run against my husband."

"But I thought (that without her husband running), "There needs to be someone at the State House with honesty and integrity.’”

“I just believe that I could really bring that while doing everything I can for the people who live in District 68,” she said.

For his part, Mr. Tyska said the decision not to re-run came down to priorities. The death this fall of his business partner at Bristol Marine has left him with more pressing matters than a run for the House of Representatives:

“The decision to not run was the most difficult easy decision to make,” he said.

Losing (the primary, “I thought … was a sign to get back to my business. It is the absolute right thing for me to do; I’m deep into ensuring the long-term future of my business and (Bristol Marine’s) 85 employees.”

But when his wife told him of her interest in the seat, he said, he was all for it.

Joseph DePasquale
One Independent out of the race is Warren Town Council member Joseph DePasquale, who appears to be a non-starter due to an oversight.

Mr. DePasquale had spoken over the last several weeks of his intent to run for the seat, but Warren Town Clerk Julie Coelho said Friday evening that he failed to get his candidacy papers in on time and thus will not be on the ballot. Reached by phone in Texas Friday evening, Mr. DePasquale said that since he was out of town he left his candidacy papers in the hands of a friend to deliver. He was surprised to learn Friday evening that they never made it to Warren Town Hall:

“I guess I got stiffed, then,” he said. “That’s what happens when you leave it in someone else’s hands.”

Upcoming dates
The three Democrats — Ms. Speakman, Mr. Ruggeiro and Mr. Hanley — will square off in a Democratic primary on Tuesday, Feb. 5, leaving the Special Election scheduled for Tuesday, March 5.

If Mr. Hanley wins the District 68 seat, another special election would be required in Warren to fill his vacated seat on the Warren Town Council.

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