Luciano, Karsulavitch target GOP base in Senate 8 primary

Luciano, Karsulavitch target GOP base in Senate 8 primary

PAWTUCKET – In a rare Republican primary race for a city General Assembly election, Pawtucket Republican City Committee Chairman Nathan Luciano, pictured left, is facing off against fellow party member Richard Karsulavitch, right.

Luciano said Karsulavitch has never been to any of the city GOP’s meetings and said he hadn’t heard of him prior to his declaring for the Senate 8 race.

“Nobody on the committee has ever heard of him,” Luciano said. If Karsulavitch had shown up for GOP meetings, Luciano said, the two might have been able to chat about how to avoid a primary race in a city traditionally known for electing Democrats to state and local office.

Luciano, 37, of 289 Orient Ave., said the two happened to run into each other last week at City Hall when they were handing in signatures of eligible voters, and they chatted for almost 30 minutes.

Karsulavitch, 46, of 217 Grand Ave., says his lack of involvement with the Pawtucket GOP as an organization has no bearing on his ability to run. He said he’s been planning to run for about five or six years, but “the time was just not right” until now.

Karsulavitch said he began seriously considering a run when former District 8 Sen. Jamie Doyle said in December that he might not seek re-election. When Doyle stepped down from the seat in January, citing a need to address issues with alcohol use, Karsulavitch said he spoke to his family and told them of his plans to run for the seat, and they all gave their blessings.

Karsulavitch emphasizes that he’s “not a politician,” noting Luciano’s status as the endorsed candidate.

“I am just a regular person just like everyone else,” he said. “I am not looking to make a career in this position. I just want to give the people a voice in the Senate. My personal feelings do not belong in the spotlight, but the voice of the people does.”

Both GOP candidates are married and have children.

Karsulavitch said a “minor difference” between he and Luciano are that Luciano has lived in the district for seven years, while he has been there for 17 years. He emphasized that he has no endorsements and is running his own campaign.

“I owe nothing to anyone but the voters, if elected,” he said.

Karsulavitch works as highway supervisor for the Pawtucket Department of Public Works.

The winner of the GOP primary on Feb. 27 wins the right to face off against the winner of the Democrat primary in an April 3 election. Democrats Matt Fecteau, David Norton and Sandra Cano are all battling it out before the Democratic primary.

The GOP winner in the district, which covers the northeast section of the city, won’t need many votes to come out on top, as the district has far fewer registered Republicans than Democrats and the special election won’t have any other races on the ballot to draw voters out.

City Registrar Ken McGill said there are 16,478 eligible voters in the district, 8,562 of them Democrats, and 1,219 of them Republicans. There are 6,697 unaffiliated voters, and they can choose to vote in one primary or the other, but not both, said McGill.

Luciano said he’s not focusing on the primary for the other party, though he’s been following some of the fighting between Norton and Fecteau. He said his focus is on telling voters that he’s here to do a job and how he plans to accomplish it.

“This is an opportunity for me to represent the people and what they care about,” he said.

The two biggest concerns he’s hearing as he walks the district gauging the “heartbeat of the community,” said Luciano, are about Memorial Hospital closing and the potential loss of the Pawtucket Red Sox. High taxes related to the return they bring have also been a hot topic, he said.

It will be that willingness to listen to concerns from residents that would immediately make a difference in a district that was clearly under-represented by Doyle, especially as the former senator missed so much legislative time over the past year, said Luciano, who works in the financial, mortgage and investing field.

Luciano said he knows the challenges to winning a Pawtucket Senate seat, and the uphill battle Republicans face as the tiny minority in that chamber, but said he feels up to the task of representing city residents in that capacity.

Both candidates on the GOP side say they’re in favor of keeping the Pawtucket Red Sox in Pawtucket, but they share some reluctance about the current financing proposal being considered.

Karsulavitch said he’s been on the fence about the question. He said the PawSox are an asset to the city, but “only if there would be a return on the investment.” If he had to vote today, he would vote against the proposal, he said.

Luciano said he, too, wants the team to stay, but said, “I don’t like the deal where it stands.”