News Column

Support of voter ID law, Constitutional Convention motivates Carlevale to run for R.I. secretary of state

July 10, 2014

By Jennifer Bogdan, The Providence Journal, R.I.

July 10--PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Twenty years have passed since John M. Carlevale Sr. last ran for secretary of state.

The 70-year-old wasn't banking on a fifth attempt at state office, but Carlevale decided he had to run after learning that neither of the other candidates support the state's voter ID law or holding a Constitutional Convention.

"Those two issues really got me upset," said Carlevale, who is running as a Republican. "The people have a right to have a say. That's why the law allows a Constitutional Convention."

As for the state's controversial voter ID law adopted in 2011, Carlevale said he supports the regulation requiring voters to present a photo ID to vote. Without it, he said, there is no assurance that voter fraud won't occur.

His Democratic opposition includes Nellie Gorbea, a former deputy secretary of state, and Guillaume de Ramel, who lost to current Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis in a 2006 primary.

Carlevale, of West Greenwich, who announced his candidacy last month, has waged four unsuccessful campaigns in the 1990s -- two for secretary of state, one for state Senate and one for lieutenant governor.

He said he is uniquely suited for the role of secretary of state because of his long history as an educator and a social worker. He started out his career as a social caseworker and then taught as an assistant professor of human services at the Community College of Rhode Island for nearly 30 years.

"I know how to educate and motivate and get things done," Carlevale said. "I've been a professional educator all my life."

The secretary of state's duties include voter registration, ballot preparation, historic document preservation and lobbyist registration. He pointed to updates to the voter handbook, restoration of a civics curriculum in schools, and establishing an archives museum for the state among his goals if elected.

Carlevale said he believes informed citizen involvement is essential. That thought drives his passion behind his public access television show "State of the State," which focuses on politics and current events. As producer, he books the guests and chooses the topics but typically leaves the interviewing to others.

He said he doesn't think the show presents any conflicts with his running for office and will continue as its producer. He has never appeared as a guest on his show, but said he hasn't yet decided how he will handle that possibility this year.

Topics tackled on his program include the state's use of straight-party voting, also known as the master lever. A law recently signed by Governor Chafee will discontinue the long-disputed practice that allowed voters to select all candidates from a party with a single stroke of a pen.

An early version of the bill would have abolished the use of the master lever immediately, but the version that was approved doesn't call for its elimination until January 2015. Some lawmakers said it would take more time to educate the public about the changes being made to the ballot.

"It smacks of political opportunism for people in power," Carlevale said when asked about the delay. "If I were in office now I would put the master lever option in a conspicuous location on some corner of the ballot. Too many people vote because of a party or name recognition or because there is an asterisk next to someone's name."

Carlevale said he hopes to raise around $250,000 for his campaign. De Ramel had $585,709 on hand and Gorbea had $186,665 as of the most recent reports on file with the state Board of Elections.


John Carlevale

Residence: West Greenwich

Age: 70

Occupation: Producer of "State of the State," public access television show focusing on state politics. Former social worker and assistant professor at Community College of Rhode Island.

Party: Republican

Previous political office: Unsuccessful candidate for governor in 1998, state Senate in 1996 and lieutenant governor in 1992 and 1994.

Education: Bachelor's and master's degrees from University of Rhode Island.

Family: Single; two children, four grandchildren.


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Source: Providence Journal (RI)

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