2014-11-06 / Around Town

'Time to Heal' Says Paiva Weed

By Tom Walsh

District 13 Sen. Teresa Paiva Weed and District 12 Sen. Louis DiPalma on the campaign trail at the Newport Public Library, Precinct 2106. (Photo by Jack Kelly) District 13 Sen. Teresa Paiva Weed and District 12 Sen. Louis DiPalma on the campaign trail at the Newport Public Library, Precinct 2106. (Photo by Jack Kelly) After surviving the closest race she’s had in 22 years, Democratic Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed said it was time to put the contentious Newport Grand casino expansion issue aside and look to the future.

“We need to work to heal the city of Newport,” she said. The day after Newport voters rejected table games at Newport Grand for the second time, Paiva Weed called Newport Grand “an important corporate citizen in Newport.” And, she said, “It will be important to work with them and the state and the taxpayers of Newport going forward.”

On Nov. 4, Paiva Weed won reelection to her Senate District 13 seat, encompassing most of Newport and Jamestown, with just over 55 percent of the vote over Republican Michael Smith, a Newport businessman. This was the first time she had failed to attract at least 60 percent of the vote.

“I know there was a strong antiincumbent feeling around our community and around the state,” said the three-term Senate president. “I always take every challenge seriously.” Smith’s campaign emphasized his strong opposition to authorizing Newport Grand to offer table games in addition to slot machines. At the height of the campaign he attacked Paiva Weed, who had once supported the table games proposal, for opposing the expansion only after the Newport City Council rejected a host community agreement.

“My opponent ran a very competitive race,” Paiva Weed said. “I respect that kind of hard work. I hope he stays involved.”

The Senate president said she remains “very optimistic” about the future of Newport, Jamestown and the state.

“My priorities are the same,” she said. “They revolve around strengthening our diverse economy and working in areas such as defense, the arts and tourism. They are all very important.” The former student tour guide at Fort Adams State Park said she will continue to advocate for improvements there. “I have a real love of that park,” she said.

Political newcomer Smith’s stronger-than-anticipated showing against the entrenched Senate president surprised some—even Smith. As results came in on election night, Smith was informed that in one precinct he had lost to Paiva Weed by just four votes.

“Wow,” he exclaimed in wonder. “I came that close?”

Reflecting on his maiden political venture a day later, Smith said, “When I jumped into the race five months ago, no one knew who I was. I came a long way. I just didn’t make it past the finish line. I guess right now I’m kind of licking my wounds.”

Despite that, Smith sounded like someone who will run again, if not for the state Senate then perhaps for a different office. “In the last few months I saw the momentum increasing,” Smith said. Looking back, he thought that if he had started organizing a campaign earlier, particularly fundraising, then the outcome might have been different.

“When my opponent started mentioning me by name in her campaign materials, it showed we were in contention,” said Smith. He recalled that friends with political experience warned him that he would find the demands of campaigning “horrible.”

“But it wasn’t,” Smith said. “I enjoyed meeting people. I learned more from the people than from the politicians. And now I have some name recognition.”

Does that realization hint at another run for office?

Smith answered the question with a question. “How can I serve in the future? Right now I just don’t know how that will be.”

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