2014-09-11 / Front Page

Carson Ousts Martin

By Barry Bridges

Lauren H. Carson marked her first run for political office with a victory over three-term incumbent Peter F. Martin in Tuesday’s Democratic primary contest for the Rhode Island House of Representatives District 75 seat. Unofficial results from the state Board of Elections and the Newport Canvassing Authority showed that with all precincts reporting, Carson garnered 850 votes (53.6 percent), while Martin received 736 (46.4 percent).

Carson prevailed in most district precincts. She bested Martin by a margin of 70 in precinct 2104 (St. John’s Church); by 57 in precinct 2105 (Donovan Manor); by 8 in precinct 2106 (Newport Public Library); and by 24 in precinct 2108 (Thompson Middle School). Martin notched a win in precinct 2107 (Rogers High School), with 261 votes to Carson’s 216.

“It’s a very exciting day,” Carson beamed as she reviewed election results at her home surrounded by the family and friends who played a large part in her campaign over the summer months. She was quick to acknowledge their role in helping to realize her political ambitions and presented a celebratory cake to supporters who gathered for the occasion. “Thanks for Putting Newport First” was emblazoned in blue icing across the top.

The Carson/Martin matchup was the only competitive local race in the primary season, which sometimes seemed to be overshadowed by debates surrounding the upcoming casino referendum in November. Both candidates are on the record as opposing an expansion at Newport Grand to add table games. However, Martin was criticized by some after legislation passed in the waning hours of the 2014 legislative session that removed the casino question from the general election’s local ballot, and Carson hit upon this discontent in her advertising.

The candidates’ views on other issues were perhaps not so easily compared, as Martin declined an invitation to debate from the Newport County League of Women Voters. He decided instead to focus on his track record, while Carson launched a grass roots door-todoor effort to introduce herself to district residents.

“I attribute my win to tapping in to voter disenfranchisement in this city,” Carson told Newport This Week. “Voters are frustrated with elected officials and want a stronger relationship with their legislators. I know that going door to door was effective, as it connected me face to face with the constituency.”

Carson works on environmental policy for R.I. Clean Water Action and has been active as a community volunteer in several Newport organizations. She credits a multifaceted approach to the success of her bid, which included a social media strategy and a phone bank. A professional canvassing staff fanned out on election day to assist with voter outreach.

“I spent the entire day going from polling place to polling place, visiting each location two or three times before returning home to review returns,” Carson said of the hectic morning and afternoon, which offered final opportunities to meet Newporters before they cast their ballots.

Martin issued a brief statement after his defeat, writing “I want to thank the people of District 75 for the privilege they gave me to serve them for the past five and one-half years. It is a responsibility which I took most seriously. I was able to work on a full-time basis on what others might consider a part-time job. I have congratulated my opponent on her victory.”

With no competition in November’s election, Carson will take her place among 74 other Rhode Island representatives when the legislature convenes for its 2015 session in early January.

Return to top