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Ehrhardt, Gamba Head to Primaries for District 32 Seat

A contentious campaign for District 32 will end with Tuesday's primary election.

A summer of contentious campaigning will come to an end for two Republicans vying for District 32’s seat in the General Assembly on Tuesday as voters hit the polls for the 2012 Primary Elections. On the ticket for District 32, State Rep. Laurence “Larry” Ehrhardt looks to hold his seat and pursue a fifth term against newcomer Sharon Gamba.

Ehrhardt was first elected to the General Assembly in 2004 after getting involved in politics during the Quonset container port debate in the early 2000s, which he vocally opposed. Ehrhardt, who formerly worked in the shipping industry, moved to Wickford from Connecticut in 2000. For his fifth term, he looks to focus on more economic development, municipal reform and job creation.

“I have about 650 unemployed people in my district,” said Ehrhardt. “What I need to focus on is how I can help those 650 people.”

Though Ehrhardt has been a familiar face in state politics for more than a decade, his challenger is a newcomer to the political scene. Owner of antique shop Once in a Blue Moon and co-owner of an auto repair shop in Cranston, Gamba has been working in small business for the past 35 years. In the 1970s, she and her husband started Cranston Collision Center with “nothing but a $17 toolbox from K-Mart.” Like Ehrhardt, Gamba is focused on improving employment and making Rhode Island more business friendly.

“Larry has been retired a long time,” said Gamba. “He has no idea what it’s like to run a business now in this state. No idea.”

With similar platforms, the two have worked to differentiate themselves with experience. Gamba touts her understanding of the current small business environment in the state and promises to bring a new energy to the General Assembly. She said she has found support with local business owners and with those who “want to see a change.” Ehrhardt, a graduate of Harvard Business School, sits on the House Finance Committee, House Environmental & Natural Resources Committee, House Small Business Committee, Joint Port Facilities Study Committee and is also the Senior Deputy Minor Leader.  

The sight of “Gamba” and “Ehrhardt” signs both dotting the roadside throughout North Kingstown was not part of the plan, however. According to Gamba, the North Kingstown Town Republican Committee approached her as a potential successor to Ehrhardt earlier this year after the four-term incumbent considered retirement from office. Gamba said she was being mentored by the state representative for three months, starting in April 2012. On her website, Gamba displays copies of emails between herself and Rep. Ehrhardt, reportedly showing correspondence between the two.

According to Ehrhardt, their conversations were not as extensive as Gamba asserts. Ehrhardt said that the two only met three times before the June 26 candidate filing date and denies mentoring the newcomer. Though he admits to “seriously considering” retiring, Ehrhardt chose to run for re-election after a discussion with his wife and deciding he could “still give back” with four more years of public service. Another factor in his decision, he said, was Gamba.

Ehrhardt said a “red flag” went up at the end of this past legislative session when the auto body bill came up for a vote. Gamba and her husband, who own Cranston Collision Center, lobbied for the .

“It was an extremely self-serving piece of legislation,” said Ehrhardt.

Another key piece to race for District 32 is redistricting. The shifting of district lines caused assumed Democratic challenger Richard Welch (who ran two unsuccessful campaigns against Ehrhardt) into District 31. Gamba believes the prospect of running unopposed for a fifth term was a major influence in Ehrhardt's decision to run again. Ehrhardt admitted that it was a factor, but not the only one.

The winner of Tuesday’s primary will go on to face . Craven was picked by the Rhode Island Democratic Party within 24 hours after the June 26 filing date. Per state law, both political parties had 24 hours to plug in candidates for unchallenged seats. 

Polls open Tuesday, Sept. 11 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Check back to North Kingstown Patch for more information on the primaries and polling locations.

Real Deal September 07, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Ehrhardt has become part of the problem. He goes along to get along and has publicly stated that he works for the state and not for the town when he is at the General Assembly! He has forgotten that we elect him to work for us not for the "state", whatever that means.
E September 07, 2012 at 01:22 PM
I'm so proud of how hard my choice, SHARON GAMBA, has campaigned for this primary! I have a very strong belief that her tireless efforts at campaigning are indicative of the effort she will put into representing my neighbors and I!
NKGOP Watch September 07, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Ehrhardt lied to OCG when his help was requested to get Halley out. He supports the misappropriator of special needs funds to this day. But I have a good feeling about Sharon Gamba so at least now we have a fresh new honest choice.
Only in RI September 07, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Larry Ehrhardt has had eight years to do something in North Kingstown and is seeking 2 more...FOR WHAT? Look at Post Road, look at Wickford, look at the number of businesses that come and go in N.K. Then look at Larrys opposition to small business expansion in our town. Real Estate taxes went up AGAIN, school sports programs are cut, janitors have been removed, fire personal have to change how they work, and Ehrhardt seems to feel that he is worthy of 2 more years.... We would be fools to give him 2 more years.
Informed Woman September 07, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Time for a change. Sharon Gamba has the energy and drive to represent our town.
P O V September 07, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Dear Only in RI You are absolutely correct about the lost businesses on Post Road. Her # is in the telephone book, so when you call up House Rep Doreen Costa (as the overwhelming majority of those Post Road empty storefronts are in HER district) let us know Ms. Costa's response. Ask her about taxes...she might inform you that it isn't the purveyance of the State Legislature to lower your local tax rate. Ms. Costa seems friendly enough. Possibly SHE can explain to you what Ms. Gamba could not. And...maybe she can enlighten you on DEM rulings at a Fish Market.... and you can pass the word on to Ms. Gamba. Let us know what you find out.
NKGOP Watch September 08, 2012 at 03:55 AM
The simple fact is that people are tired of Ehrhardt's deceitfulness. It's demeaning to the position.
Govstench September 08, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Ehrhardt has had eight years in office and it is time for a change. As he was planning on retiring and encouraged Sharon to be his replacement, he should do the right thing for the party and step aside.
JB September 08, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Good luck to Ms. Gamba this year. nothing against rep. Ehrhardt, but I think occasional turnover in politics is a healthy thing on all levels, town state federal etc. Maybe a fresh face is whats needed to get things going for RI, a perfect compliment to rep Costa as well.
BLT September 11, 2012 at 10:22 AM
Like many politicians, you only see and hear from them when it's election time and they talk the talk of what you want to hear and then it's buisness as usual. I have faith in Sharon Gamba and hoping she does not fall into that politcal melting pot.
Dark star September 11, 2012 at 12:14 PM
She is a fresh face, she has "drive"(whatever that means), but what EXACTLY does she stand for? What are the planks of her platform? I have yet to read what she stands for....except Larry changed his mind..boo hoo. I could not care less about the freshness of her face or how "driven" she has been campaigning ( lots of it at OHT). She has yet to disseminate how she will be different and better. Many times the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know and this is one of those times.
NKGOP Watch September 11, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Sharon Gamba represents just the change we need, especially in the stale nk republican town committee.
Dark star September 12, 2012 at 03:19 AM
No change this year...Ehrhardt by 27 votes. Probably should be contested but doubt there will be more than a 2 vote differential.


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