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Raimondo’s re-election and PawSox move topped news in 2018

December 24, 2018
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FILE -- In this Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, Rhode Island Democrat Gov. Gina Raimondo, center, celebrates her victory over Cranston, R.I., Mayor Republican Allan Fung in the race for governor, in Providence, R.I. Raimondo's re-election was among the state's top stories in 2018. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The re-election of Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, an announcement by the Pawtucket Red Sox that they’re leaving Rhode Island, and state lawmakers’ struggle to address sexual misconduct were among the top stories in the state in 2018.

Other top headlines included the political rifts that were exposed in the run-up to the November general election and the launch of sports betting.

A look back at the state’s top stories of the year:

RAIMONDO RE-ELECTED

Raimondo made the case for a second term by telling voters she would continue Rhode Island’s economic recovery. She was re-elected , beating back a challenge for the second time from Allan Fung, the Republican mayor of Cranston. Raimondo also prevailed against Fung in a three-way race in 2014.

Raimondo’s approach to economic development was the subject of much debate during the campaign. She plans to continue investing in job training, education and infrastructure.

PAWSOX DRAMA

The Pawtucket Red Sox announced in August that they’re leaving Rhode Island for Worcester , Massachusetts, after a three-year search for a new stadium. It was a major blow for Pawtucket, an old mill town that never fully recovered from the Great Depression.

The governor and Pawtucket’s mayor said it would’ve been irresponsible to offer the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox a deal similar to the one Worcester made. The PawSox will continue to play in Pawtucket while the Worcester stadium is built.

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT

The Rhode Island Legislature grappled with how to address sexual misconduct in 2018. The state Senate’s minority whip was indicted in February on charges of extorting a teenage legislative page for sex. Republican Nicholas Kettle resigned but has denied all charges. That led the Senate to amend its rules to mandate annual sexual harassment training and establish a process to expel a member. The House also did training.

In the House, a legislative commission recommended bills to address sexual harassment, but none got a vote on the House floor. The commission was created because a lawmaker said last year that a higher-ranking legislator told her sexual favors would allow her bills to go further. And Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello faced criticism for his handling of sexual harassment allegations.

POLITICAL RIFTS

The run-up to the November general election exposed rifts in both the Democratic and Republican parties. Liberals blasted the Rhode Island Democratic Party for endorsing a male candidate who voted for Donald Trump over a sitting female state lawmaker known for championing liberal causes in a primary for a seat in the state House of Representatives. The party then withdrew the endorsement, and state Rep. Moira Walsh went on to beat Michael Earnheart in the primary and eventually win re-election to represent a district in Providence.

Meanwhile, then-House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan’s endorsement of independent Joe Trillo over Republican nominee Allan Fung drew criticism. Fung beat Morgan in the primary. In response, the tiny Republican caucus in the state House of Representatives took the symbolic step of stripping Morgan of her leadership position and the state Republican Party chairman harshly criticized the endorsement.

SPORTS BETTING

Rhode Island moved quickly to legalize and launch sports betting this year, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that made most sports gambling illegal.

Twin River Casino’s Lincoln location became the first casino in New England to accept bets on professional sports in late November. Twin River then allowed sports wagers at its Tiverton location, and the two are the only places where bets are currently accepted in Rhode Island. The state plans to explore ways to expand sports betting in 2019.

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