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Democratic lawmaker fends off challenge from Trump supporter

September 13, 2018

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A sitting female lawmaker known for championing liberal causes won in the Democratic primary in Rhode Island over a Donald Trump-voting male candidate.

State Rep. Moira Walsh won Wednesday in Providence’s District 3 against Michael Earnheart, who was a registered Republican until December and voted for Trump.

The Rhode Island Democratic Party unleashed a furor by endorsing Earnheart this summer, then backtracked and withdrew the endorsement.

Walsh has said she felt like she was running against Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello because of his strong support for Earnheart. Mattiello donated to Earnheart and some of the speaker’s staff campaigned for him Wednesday, according to The Providence Journal.

Walsh won with about 55 percent of the vote. She said on Twitter that Mattiello made her “strive harder, push farther and hold grudges.” She added a hashtag in support of Mattiello’s opponent in November, Republican Steven Frias.

Walsh took office in 2017 after ousting a longtime incumbent and is known for being blunt. Shortly after she arrived at the Statehouse, she stirred controversy by saying there’s an “insane amount of drinking” in the building. Legislative leaders disputed that. More recently, she was highly critical of a compromise version of a pay equity proposal that Mattiello supported.

Walsh is unopposed in November.

Most members of the General Assembly who sought another term were nominated.

Longtime Democratic Sen. Paul Jabour, however, lost to activist Sam Bell in Providence. Bell said he was running to restore core Democratic values to the state and resist Trump’s agenda.

Sen. Jeanine Calkin in Warwick also lost in the Democratic primary to attorney Mark McKenney.

A freshman Democratic representative, Ramon Perez, lost to Mario Mendez, who was backed by the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats. Perez made headlines in his first term for asking a controversial question during sexual harassment training and for mistakenly giving his colleagues a handout that showed open web browser tabs referencing pornographic content. The district includes parts of Providence and Johnston.

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