2014-05-08 / Front Page

Neighbors Vie for House Seat

By Tom Walsh

Peter Martin Peter Martin Two neighbors who live just five doors apart on Willow Street in Newport’s Point neighborhood will oppose each other in what will likely become a spirited primary battle for the Democratic Party nomination for the District 75 House seat.

Rep. Peter Martin, the three-term incumbent, said he will seek reelection to a fourth term. Lauren Carson, a registered State House lobbyist for her employer, Clean Water Action, will try to unseat him.

“Bring it on,” said Martin, 73, who conceded he was surprised to learn that he would face a primary challenge.

“I’ve always had an interest in civic responsibility and politics,” said Carson, 60.

So far they are the only two announced candidates for the District 75 seat. Formal declarations of candidacy must be submitted June 23- 25. The primary is Sept. 9, with the general election on Nov. 4.

Lauren Carson Lauren Carson Martin was not opposed for reelection two years ago. He said he found out about this year’s challenge when Carson called him last week and asked to meet with him at the State House. “She said she needed to talk to me, and she came in and we spoke right on the House floor,” he recalled. “I was surprised. As a lobbyist, I didn’t expect her to be interested in running for public office.” Martin, who was born in Newport, moved away for work, and then returned for good 14 years ago, said he will run on his record in the House. “I’ve got a track record,” he said, citing his recent work in gaining passage of legislation to thwart child pornography. He noted in almost six years he has never missed a House session or a committee meeting.

But Martin said what’s even more important than that is his concern for Newport and its residents. “People campaign for state office and they say they are for the city of Newport,” Martin said. “But what does that mean? The first thing you should know is the domain of your job. In my view, the job means working for the city at the state level.”

And, he added, “I’ll focus on what I’ve done. I’m not going to campaign against anyone.”

Carson said she has been “an activist most of my adult life,” and that she views the race as similar to applying for a new position. “I’ve always wanted this type of job.” Carson said she will keep working as a campaign organizer for Clean Water Action, a national environmental organization, however, she said she would no longer register as a lobbyist if elected to the House.

“My company is very flexible,” Carson said. “We do a lot of things. They’re fine with it. I will not lobby, but I’ll keep my job.”

Carson has lived in Newport for 21 years and currently serves on the city Charter Review Commission, as well as the Energy and Environment Commission. She plans to spend $20,000 to win the race and is prepared to self-fund part of that amount if necessary.

“I want to be a more activist representative than the one we have now,” Carson said, citing jobs and the economy, and also the impact of climate change on Newport. She observed, for example, that the Point neighborhood may be vulnerable to flooding caused by a rising water table and global warming. “I’m extremely concerned about this,” she said. “I want to represent the city on these issues.”

Carson said she is familiar with the workings of the State House. “Aquidneck Island is not represented up there,” she asserted. “I go to meetings and nobody is there for Newport, Middletown or Portsmouth. I want to bring the concerns of Newporters to Providence.”

Martin said he has done a good job for Newport. “There has been no indication from the people that I need to be replaced.”

The incumbent remarked that he expects to be endorsed for re-election by the Newport Democratic City Committee, adding, “I certainly believe I’ve earned it."

Carson said she hopes to speak to city committee members before long but noted, “If the Democratic City Committee endorses him, I understand that.”

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