Kithes, Jalette set their sights on Aug. 6 runoff

Kithes, Jalette set their sights on Aug. 6 runoff

Alexander Kithes, left, and Roger Jalette Sr. will advance to the Aug. 6 special election after claiming the top two spots in the special primary election last week.

WOONSOCKET – Two candidates are headed for the Aug. 6 special election to fill a vacant seat on the Woonsocket City Council after earning the two highest vote totals in last week’s special primary election.

Alexander Kithes and Roger Jalette Sr. are advancing to the special election after beating out two other candidates, Anita McGuire-Forcier and Michael Disney, to claim the top spots. Kithes, a first-time candidate and chairman of the group Rhode Islanders for Reform, had the largest share of the votes with 995 votes, or 52.2 percent. Jalette, a former City Council president, placed second with 588 votes, or 30.85 percent.

The results set the stage for a battle of opposites as voters head to the polls next month. While Jalette, the former owner of Roger’s Flower Shop who has served several stints on the City Council, is a familiar name for city residents, Kithes was virtually unknown to many local voters prior to declaring his run for office in April. After getting his start campaigning against budget cuts as a student at Woonsocket High School, Kithes focused his political efforts mainly at the state level, leading a group that lobbies for legislative rules reform in the General Assembly.

While Kithes last week attributed his win to a well-organized campaign of knocking on doors and getting to know city voters, Jalette pointed to his opponent’s fundraising, which totaled more than $13,000 in the first two months of the campaign. From April through mid-June, Kithes collected a possibly unprecedented amount in contributions for a special City Council election, spending approximately $5,000 on advertising, lawn signs, fundraising events and a campaign headquarters and manager. His supporters include a long list of state politicians and activists, many of them associated with the progressive wing of the state’s Democratic party.

“I’m not sure, but I think it may be a record amount on a City Council race,” said Jalette. “I’ve never heard of anyone spending that kind of money in a primary for a City Council race.”

In the face of a well-organized opponent, Jalette said he plans to ramp up his campaigning in the second part of the election season and run his campaign differently than he has in the past. The former council president noted he got his own start on the City Council close to three decades ago in a similar situation.

“I am putting together a way of handling this particular election that is different from the past, because I have never run against someone like him before,” he said. “My very first time that I ran for City Council was 26 years ago, believe it or not, in a special election like this is.”

“It’s way different than it was 26 years ago,” he added.

In contrast, Jalette received just $915 in contributions in the same two-month period, including donations from current Councilors Daniel Gendron, Jon Brien and Denise Sierra. Though Kithes has criticized his older opponent as a product of what he calls the city’s “good old boy politics,” Jalette told The Valley Breeze he thinks his straightforward campaign message of lowering taxes and clamping down on city spending continues to resonate with voters of all ages.

While Jalette expressed disappointment over the low voter turnout – just 7 percent of the city’s 27,122 registered voters – Kithes said the turnout was higher than he expected for a special primary election just two days before the Fourth of July. He credited his team of volunteers and his campaign manager, fellow Woonsocket High School graduate Keith Jillette, with getting the word out to voters, many of whom he believed came to the polls to support his vision for the city.

“It really is reflective of the fact that people will vote when they have something to vote for,” he said. “I think it speaks to the fact that talking to people and knocking doors, it helps to give people confidence in me because I’m actually there talking to them.”

In contrast with Jalette’s simple message, Kithes has advocated for a long list of campaign priorities, including government transparency, support for the local arts scene, renewable energy projects and policies that support public education. He defended his campaign spending, pointing out that while his opponent had 16 years on the council to build up name recognition, many of the residents receiving his mailers are seeing his name for the first time. He told The Breeze he plans to continue reaching voters on as many platforms as possible, including a website launched this month.

“The money spent on the City Council race for me is another tool to be able to have voter contact, and I’m not going to apologize for that,” he said.

A third candidate, Anita McGuire-Forcier, placed third with 237 votes, or 15.37 percent. McGuire-Forcier is a former School Committee chairwoman who ran on her experience in city government and a message of unity and smart fiscal planning.

Perennial candidate Michael Disney placed last with 30 votes, or 1.57 percent.

The Board of Canvassers also totaled 11 write-in ballots for the special primary election. Mail-in ballots accounted for 132 of the 1,917 votes.

The August special election will be the city’s fifth in 13 months after the fall primary and general election and a special referendum to return to an elected School Committee last July. The new councilor will replace former Councilor Julia Brown, who left her seat in April to take an out-of-state job.

Comments

First, the SIMPLER the message, the EASIER it is to understand it. We KNOW and realize that most politicians will resort to using a 'mixed bag' of words--especially euphemisms--to try to put their message across.

Roger Jalette's 16 years of council experience 'carries much weight' because 'EXPERIENCE is the best teacher'! He would be 'stepping back in' to READILY PERFORM the job functions of a councilor, i. e., NO training would be required! The City has already suffered the REPERCUSSIONS of an UNTRAINED candidate!

One of Mr. Kithes' campaign priorities is “RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECTS”. This is nothing new for the City because many people will remember that ex-councilor Jalette 'was way ahead of this game' when he had proposed SOLAR energy in the past. At the time, however, this type of energy source was not a focus, as it is today.

Totally agree with Mr. Kithes that reaching voters on AS MANY PLATFORMS as possible is most important and no doubt, ex-councilor Jalette will do the same thing.

As noted in this article, Mr. Kithes' greatest...supporters include a long list of state politicians and activists, many of them associated with the PROGRESSIVE WING of the state’s Democratic party. This item is very SCARY because all one has to do is to REFER to those states which reign in such a PROGRESSIVE lifestyle!

AMEN!