2016-08-11 / Election News

First Ward Challenge

ELECTION NEWS
By Tom Walsh

Newport has seen relatively little competition for City Council ward seats in recent elections.

In 2014, there were two contenders for each of the Second Ward and Third Ward seats. The Second Ward saw two new names on the ballot when former Councilor Justin McLaughlin opted to run for councilor at-large. In the Third Ward, incumbent Kathryn Leonard was narrowly re-elected.

The only ward contest this November will be in the First Ward, where two-term incumbent Marco T. Camacho is being challenged by attorney Susan D. Taylor.

To many, the city’s ward system remains a bit unclear since it is common vernacular to hear someone reference the Fifth Ward. In 1926, the city had five wards, but a year later that number dropped to four. The current three-ward era began in April of 2004, according to canvassers.

So where, exactly, is the First Ward?

Officially, Ward One is comprised of precincts 2102 and 2104, according to the Newport Board of Canvassers. But you could more simply say that Ward One is northern Newport.

The ward has Pell Elementary School sitting on city’s northern border with Middletown and includes the Point neighborhood, Goat Island and Navy lands. Its eastern border is Broadway.

“We’ve had great success and have done great things for the city and the First Ward,” Camacho declared. He cites a long list of accomplishments – such as a dinghy rack near shore in the Point neighborhood, improved police patrols, a repaved Third Street, and stormwater upgrades – to reinforce his message.

“I’m not running on rhetoric, I’m running on results,” said Camacho, 38, who took over when four-term Councilor Charlie Duncan resigned on July 5, 2012. “No one’s gotten left behind and everyone benefits from what we’ve done.”

Taylor, 65, a native of Seattle, Washington who moved to Newport in 2007, was asked during a brief telephone interview why she was running for the First Ward seat.

“Newport will be making critical decisions relative to its growth and the health of its economy and its educational facilities. I think that I bring a unique voice and I want to be part of that,” said Taylor, who described herself as a Democrat seeking the seat on the nonpartisan council. She has practiced immigration law for nearly 30 years.

Pressed for more details, Taylor offered a glimpse into her reason for making this race.

“I am a consensus builder who believes there is an important role for government in dealing with the challenges of climate change and building a strong and diversified economic base for Newport’s future,” she said.

Camacho, who said he has lived in Newport for 28 of his 38 years, operates the New England Sports Marketing Group that specializes in running sports-oriented events. Camacho graduated from Providence College in 1999. He attended PC on an ROTC scholarship and later served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army.

Of his City Council service, Camacho said he wants to be reelected to a third term because “Everything that I do now is to set conditions for the future.” Under that umbrella, Camacho said that he wants to continue to work to reduce the impact of storm flooding in the First Ward. He also listed realigning the Pell Bridge ramps, the future of the former Naval Hospital, Gateway Center upgrades and the Sheffield Tech incubator as priorities.

“These are all good things,” Camacho said. “It all comes down to what a person’s platform is.” He said the city needs leaders who take a “youthful” approach to service on the council. “We need a young, vibrant economy and young families here in Newport. We really have a city that encompasses all age groups. Newport grew as a city when everyone said it would shrink.”

Camacho, who has no political party affiliation, said he preferred to have a November opponent rather than gaining a third council term unopposed.

“It can be a blessing to have an opponent,” he said. “I don’t think that anybody likes a peacock in politics, especially here in Newport. We’re here to serve the people. It’s really a double-edged sword to run unopposed.”

Taylor also spoke about the way city councilors are elected. “I also believe that elections present an opportunity to evaluate leadership, and that a public discussion of issues is essential for a healthy democracy. While my opponent may do a fine job representing many constituents, this is the First Ward’s opportunity to consider Newport’s long-term goals and discuss the best way forward. Democracy is about choice, and I want to give the First Ward a choice in its representation.”

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