Nirva LaFortune won the opportunity to represent Ward Three on the Providence City Council in an election Wednesday characterized by low voter turnout.
Democrat LaFortune took 94 percent of the vote, or 1,261. Republican David Lallier Jr. got 55 votes and Independent Chris Reynolds got 22 votes, according to figures in The Providence Journal.
LaFortune told Journal reporter Jacqueline Tempera she’s focused on connecting the people in her ward. “Everyone really wants to come together, to get to know each other and to figure out how we can help one another,” she said. “We want to know how we can be stronger advocates and collectively be a strong voice not only for the ward, but also for the city.”
In the primary-election campaign, there were two “un-debates” cosponsored by the Summit and Mount Hope Neighborhood Associations. In the first, the candidates only listened to the issues raised by Ward Three residents. In the second, the political hopefuls offered their approaches to solving those issues. The discussions made clear that there is a wide divide between the two neighborhoods.
On election day, LaFortune told The Journal, “This is one of the most diverse wards in the city. I think concerns vary from neighborhood to neighborhood and street to street.”
LaFortune, 34, is manager and advisor of the Presidential Scholars Program at Brown University. She oversees and coordinates all elements of the program plus planning programs in the District of Columbia to support students from historically under-represented groups and students with the greatest financial need.
She moved to Providence from Haiti when she was 3 years old and now lives in the Mount Hope neighborhood with her children. During her campaign, she focused on immigrant rights, often drawing on her own experience, and her support of the Providence Community-Police Relations Act. She has not run for public office before.
Turnout for the special election was low — with just 1,341 of the ward’s more than 10,000 voters casting a ballot. By midafternoon at the Summit Commons polling place only about 250 residents had voted.
This special election came after Kevin Jackson, a longtime city councilman, was recalled in May after being indicted on embezzlement charges. Jackson, who held a council seat for 22 years, was arrested and indicted on charges that he embezzled from a youth sports program he founded in the 1970s. He has pleaded not guilty. He was forced out of office by a voter petition drive and a recall vote.
The Journal reported that as of Aug. 8, when the latest campaign finance report was due, LaFortune had more than $5,000 left in her account. This is more than four times the amount her Republican opponent Lallier had left. Reynolds reported that he had no money in his account as of July 19. LaFortune received donations from Sen. Harold Metts, D-Providence, Darlene Allen of Adoption Rhode Island, Stephen Hug from Family Service of Rhode Island, and former Providence mayor Joseph Paolino, The Journal said.