Richmond Council race gets nasty - November 5th 2022
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
November 5th 2022
RICHMOND – With 11 candidates running for five seats on the Town Council, there’s a lot of competition and the attacks have ramped up in the remaining days before the Nov. 8 election.
The most recent attack is a flyer, sent to voters about a week ago, describing independent council candidates as being in the Democrats’ camp. It is signed by four Republican candidates, Michael Colasante, Helen Sheehan, Mark Trimmer and Jeffrey Vaillancourt.
The flyer reads:
“From what we’ve seen, many of these so-called ‘independents’ are free spenders who want to take your voices away as taxpayers [take a look at the Town Council candidate who served on the Richmond Charter Review Commission who voted to remove the power away from the people, putting the power into the hands of an unelected Town Administrator].”
The flyer refers to recommendations from the Charter Review Commission, on which independent council candidate Mark Reynolds served, to transfer some authority such as jurisdiction over town personnel, including the recreation department, from the council to the Town Administrator. Voters will be asked to accept or reject the two proposals, which are among several ballot questions.
Reynolds, an attorney who is also the Town Moderator, described the flyer as “misinformation,” and responded with a letter to the editor, published Friday in the Westerly Sun.
“I thought there was misinformation in there about me, or trying to label me a certain way that would label me a Democrat to try to get Republicans not to consider voting for me,” he said. “So, I felt that was unfair and I wanted to respond to it.”
The flyer suggests that candidates like Reynolds and James Palmisciano are Democrats masquerading as independents.
“…these ‘independents’ are anything but,” it states. “Two of them donated to the local Democrat Town Committee and two spoke at their recent event. So, we ask, are they independents or Democrats?”
That event, sponsored by the Richmond Democratic Town Committee, took place before the primary.
“They also invited the independent candidates for town offices to come and speak, as well as the Democrats,” Reynolds said. “All three independent candidates for Town Council were there.”
(The third independent candidate is Dan Madnick, who is currently a member of the town’s Planning Board.)
Council member Richard Nassaney, a Republican who is seeking reelection, has also run afoul of the Republican Town Committee and has seen his name wiped from the party’s campaign literature and yard signs.
Nassaney said he was dismayed to read the attack on Reynolds.
“Quite honestly, I’m deeply saddened by the actions of all these people that are running for office or people who are behind the people who are running for office,” he said. “It makes me sick to know that people are being so un-honest about others who are truly great people and they’re attacking from any angle that they possibly can think of, just to smear their image, to get a vote.”
Nassaney said he was banished from the Republican slate because he wouldn’t repeat what he considers to be lies.
“Because I won’t toe their line of ‘I can lower taxes,’ just a line of lies,” he said.
A second flyer targets the Chariho School Committee
The School Committee election has not been immune to back-biting. Former committee member Clay Johnson, who served from 2026 to 2020 and chairs the conservative group, The Gaspee Project, sent a flyer to voters urging them to reject the Democratic candidate, Jessica Purcell, and independent candidates, Ryan Callahan and William Day, and vote for the two Republican candidates, Patricia Pouliot and Kathryn Colasante. A sample ballot included in the flyer shows only the names of the two Republican candidates.
In the two-page flyer, dated Oct. 14, Johnson tells voters that school committee members are “promoting a divisive and racist agenda – with YOUR money! An agenda that seeks to either shame you or victimize you depending on the color of your skin. An effort to ‘decenter whiteness.’ Can you imagine something more racist? “
A supporter of Johnson when he first ran for School Committee, Nassaney said he was disappointed that Johnson had erased some candidates’ names from the flyer’s sample ballot.
“If you were going to be truthful and transparent and open, then you would have had all the candidates on that sample ballot and, fine, you want to mark off people that you would like people to vote for? Put a little circle next to them,” he said.
Nassaney lamented the two attacks, likening them to tactics that would be used in Washington.
“It’s sad, it really is,” he said. “This is our town and they’re treating it like Washington, D.C. They’re trying to smear great people and this is the reason why great people don’t run for office. “
Palmisciano, who is trying not to pay much attention to the attacks, said he was disappointed, but not surprised, by the new tone of the campaign.
“It’s late election,” he said. “Time to get out the knives and all that, but I refuse to play that game.”