Tuttle calls foul on new legislative districts

By ALEX MALM
Posted 3/3/22

Harrison Tuttle, the executive director for the Black Lives Matters RI PAC, and a Cranston resident announced in the fall that he would be a General Assembly candidate this year with the Rhode Island …

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Tuttle calls foul on new legislative districts

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Harrison Tuttle, the executive director for the Black Lives Matters RI PAC, and a Cranston resident announced in the fall that he would be a General Assembly candidate this year with the Rhode Island Political Coop but didn’t specify what office he would seek.

With the new district lines drawn as part of the every 10-year redistricting process, Tuttle found himself in a new Senate district. He said he doesn’t think it is a coincidence.

Tuttle was previously in House District 16 and Senate District 28, which is represented by Sen. Joshua Miller.

Now Tuttle is in District 31, which is represented by Sen. Kendra Anderson, who ran last cycle with the Coop.

“I’ve been hesitant to speak on this as I often try to see the best in people and am open to working with most anyone in the pursuit of equality and liberation,” said Tuttle. “However, I feel that I can no longer avoid sharing my thoughts on this matter directly.”

The Special Legislative Commission on Reappointment met numerous times in public to discuss different versions of redistricting maps, and heard testimony from people both in person and in written statements.

The goal of the redistricting was for each Senate district to hit a target population of 28,878 plus or minus 5 percent and for the house districts to hit a population of 14,632 people.

With the new maps, Senate District 31 has a population of 27,616 and Senate District 28 has 29,207 people.

Tuttle said that when the proposed map that drew Tuttle out of the district came out he organized people to testify against it on his behalf.

“The redistricting process was completely un-transparent and controlled entirely by Ruggerio and Shekarchi.

After the preliminary maps came out, I rallied dozens of people to testify against the blatant gerrymandering that was being forced on my district,” said Tuttle. “The redistricting committee ignored our testimony. Months after I had declared my intention to run for office, my street was surgically carved out of Miller’s district.”

Tuttle argued that since Miller is an ally of Senate President Dominick Ruggerio he feels that is one of the major reasons why he was redistricted out.

“Miller is one of the most powerful senators in the state and has been one of Ruggerio’s allies for years,” said Tuttle.

“Are we really expected to believe that the gerrymandering that occurred in his district was a coincidence?”

Miller said on Saturday that he had no involvement in the redistricting process.

“I was not part of the process and I am not aware of where potential opponents currently live, including Mr. Tuttle,” said Miller.

 

Prison gerrymandering

During the redistricting process one of the major concerns for Cranston was whether or not all the inmates at the ACI should count towards Cranston’s population or if they should count towards their home addresses.

Some argued that all the inmates should be considered for their home addresses populations while some argued that it should be left the same.

In the end a compromise was reached that inmates serving two years or less should count towards their home districts’ populations.

The districts that lost population due to the changes are House District 20, which is represented by Rep. David Bennett, House District 15 that is represented by Rep. Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, Senate District 27, which is represented by Sen. Hanna Gallo, and Senate District 31 which is represented by Anderson.

From the beginning Cranston Mayor Ken Hopkins was opposed to changing how they counted the inmates.

“The compromise is the better of two evils,” said Hopkins on Monday.

He noted that while he would have liked to have kept things the way they were, the compromise was fairly well done.

Following the change the BLM PAC issued a statement.

“This evening, the R.I. Redistricting Commission took a step in the right direction on prison gerrymandering,” it read. “Now, it’s up to the General Assembly to approve this recommendation and pass a law to partly end prison gerrymandering to those who have been at the ACI for under two years. The work to end prison gerrymandering is not over.”

The changes to the districts will be in effect for the 2022 elections. The current state Representatives and Senators will remain in place until January, 2023 when new elected state legislators are sworn in.

 

Who will Tuttle face off against

If Tuttle stays put it would mean that he would likely face off against a former member of the Rhode Island Political Coop.

Potter and the Coop cut ties in November of 2020 days after the election and shortly after Potter voted for Speaker Joe Shekarchi during the Democratic Caucus.

At least one progressive in the Senate, Sen. Sam Bell has expressed publicly that he doesn’t think Tuttle should run against Potter.

“Brandon is wrong on the leadership question, but on the whole he’s been a good representative for a light blue district like that,” Bell said on Sunday. “I will add that I was quite shocked by the brazenness of the gerrymandering, and I found it extremely questionable that Miller claimed he didn’t even know this was happening when everyone knew it was happening.”

The senate seat is currently held by Anderson who along with the vast majority of other candidates who won their races mutually parted ways with the Coop last fall.

For now Tuttle isn’t saying what seat he plans on running for.

“I plan on continuing to talk with friends and family and the community before I announce my decision,” said Tuttle.

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