The 2018 Midterm Elections: A Conversation with Carlos Tobon


On October 24, 2018, with elections right around the corner, I talked midterms with State Representative Carlos Tobon. The first election we discussed was the Pawtucket at-large city council race. In the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, there are three at-large city council seats that are up for grabs every two years. Tobon believes that the three Democratic candidates should win the seats, for the city has a history of voting Democrat. Tobon said that in the current political climate, voters will usually go for what they know rather than experimenting with something different. He also said that with the current polarization between parties, people look for individuals that are more moderate. Another factor that should help the Democrats win is the fact that they are all backed by the mayor of Pawtucket, Donald Grebien. Speaking of the mayor, we went on to discuss that election as well.  

The Pawtucket mayoral election features the incumbent, Democrat Donald Grebien, and his opponent, David Norton, who founded his own party; Hospitals Before Stadiums. This name refers to Pawtucket’s loss of the hospital they had, which was Memorial Hospital. The second half of Norton’s party has to do with the Pawtucket Red Sox, a Triple-A baseball team that is moving to Worcester, Massachusetts. When Norton created his party, the team had not officially moved, but it was clear they no longer wanted to play at McCoy Stadium, located in Pawtucket. Donald Grebien did everything he could to keep the team in the city, and while there was the idea of moving them to another empty area in Pawtucket, the plan did not go through. Norton believes that the mayor should be more concerned about hospitals rather than keeping the team in the city. However, Tobon said that losing the team is not indicative of the incumbent’s leadership. He went on to say that when Grebien first took office in 2010, the city was on the verge of bankruptcy, and he helped save it from that fate. While Norton’s platform does grab some attention, the mayor’s background of always working for the community should help him get a victory. In addition to this, Norton is not from Pawtucket and has not done much for the city. 

When I talked to him about his own election, he said that he has no opponent in the general election. He believes he has been his best for the city and hopes that having no opponent means people think he has done a good job. Tobon said that even though he has no opponent, he still has to campaign so people know what he is intending to do for the city and the state. 

In regards to the Rhode Island gubernatorial election, Tobon believes that the incumbent, Gina Raimondo, is going to win. In this election, Democrat Gina Raimondo is going up against her 2014 opponent, Republican Allen Fung, as well as Joe Trillo, who is non-affiliated. Tobon said that the governor has had some mishaps, but he also said that the economy is slowly turning in our favor with help from her as well as leadership from both chambers. While Tobon believes that Allen Fung has his heart in the right place and is a public servant with good plans for the state, he has recently alienated other groups that may have voted for him. Tobon said that candidates say certain things to gain approval from a certain group, but this has backfired on Fung. In regards to Joe Trillo, Tobon said that he has no filter. He said that he used to work with him as a fellow state representative, but they did not speak often. He went on to say that Trillo means well, and that he means it when he says “no BS”, but it is based on Trillo’s own interpretation of the issues. Tobon also thinks that Trillo, who used to be a Republican, will be a spoiler for Fung and take potential votes away from him. When talking about the advertisements, he said that they are a part of the campaign. They speak certain truths that are meant to persuade and to favor the candidate, as well as put the opponent in a different light. He also said that the more money candidates have, the more advertisements they can get. 

In regards to the Rhode Island Senate race, he thinks Sheldon Whitehouse should win. The race is between incumbent Senator, Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, and former associate judge on the Rhode Island Supreme Court, Republican Robert Flanders. Tobon thinks that Flanders is well-known since he was on the Supreme Court and the first receiver in the city of Central Falls. While he brought in a lot of money for the city, he also cut pensions for the city’s people. In addition to this, Tobon mentioned he has not seen the advertisements for Robert Flanders, which have thrown many shots at Whitehouse, such as calling him a “gas bag”. Tobon also believes that the Democrats should take back the United States House of Representatives but the Senate is 50/50 right now. 

As a final message, Tobon said that it is important that people search for information about the candidates. This will allow people to learn more about the elections as a whole and look at them as a system of moving parts. Politics is not stagnant but the ultimate chess game that never ends. Every piece needs to be moved accordingly to help the state and the city move forward. People need to have an open mind and embrace change. It is also important to recognize the importance of going out to vote, as well as how the census, voting, and what the state can offer are all tied together. To wrap up our discussion, he once again stressed that he wants to make decisions based upon what his constituents and the people want.

Editor’s Note: In an earlier article, “The 2018 Midterm Elections: A Conversation with Carlos Tobon” published in the November 6th  issue of The Archway, misinformation was reported stating that then Pawtucket mayoral candidate, David Norton, was not from Pawtucket. The Archway has since learned that this was an inaccurate statement and regrets reporting it. We have reached out to Mr. Norton for an interview.