Electability Is On The Ballot In Key Rhode Island House Primary

by | Sep 12, 2022 | Politics

Thanks to the upcoming retirement of Rep. Jim Langevin (D), the heavily Democratic state of Rhode Island could be the site of one of the country’s hottest general-election battles in November.Langevin has represented Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District, which encompasses the state’s more conservative and rural western half, since 2001.AdvertisementPresident Joe Biden carried the seat by 14 percentage points in 2020, but The Cook Political Report rated the race for the open seat a “toss up” in June.The contest is expected to be close in no small part because the presumptive Republican nominee to replace Langevin is former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, a self-described moderate with a history of crossover appeal.Democrats in Rhode Island will decide on Tuesday between six candidates to take on Fung in the general election: Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner; former Langevin aide Joy Fox; former state Rep. David Segal; former Biden Cabinet official Sarah Morgenthau; refugee activist Omar Bah; and former state Rep. Spencer Dickinson.Fung led all of his potential Democratic challengers in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, according to a public poll conducted in June shortly before the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the constitutional right to an abortion.Advertisement“Allan Fung is not Donald Trump,” said Wendy Schiller, a political scientist at Brown University. “That’s the big challenge for Democrats to hold the seat. Can they convince voters that a vote for Allan Fung is a vote for [House Republican Leader] Kevin McCarthy and a vote for Donald Trump?”With the most money and endorsements, Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner (D) is the polling favorite in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for an open congressional seat.David Goldman/Associated PressA Democratic Scion Who Switched RacesMagaziner, who boasts the widest array of endorsements and the largest war chest, is the polling favorite.“Even with undecideds, he’s got enough people who are going to affirmatively try to choose him,” Schiller said. “And increasingly in the last month, Democrats in that district have come to see him as the most competitive against Fung. Those Democrats are persuaded that this seat could give Republicans control of the House.”Magaziner, who has overseen Rhode Island’s finances since 2014, has deep roots in Democratic politics ― both locally and nationally. Magaziner’s father, Ira, a successful management consultant, is best known for helming President Bill Clinton’s unsuccessful health care reform initiative in 1993 and 1994. Magaziner credits his family’s wealth for enabling him to lend his first campaign for treasurer more than $800,000.AdvertisementAs treasurer, Magaziner endeared himself to Rhode Island’s labor unions with his support for the creation of an infrastructure bank ― and to financial industry donors with his pursuit of aggressive, nontraditional investments for the state’s pension fund. (Magaziner maintains that he was simply seeking the best possible returns for retired state employees.)Magaziner has also benefited from a head start on fundraising from an abandoned bid for governor that he launched in September 2021. He decided in late January to run for Congress instead, following Langevin’s announcement that he would be retiring.Relieved not to have to choose between Magaziner and Lt. Gov. Dan McKee in the gubernatorial race, top Democrats, labor unions and other party-aligned groups quickly coalesced behind Magaziner’s congressional bid. The League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund, an environmental super PAC, has spent nearly $400,000 in support of Magaziner’s bid. And Magaziner stands to benefit from the support of Langevin, who endorsed him in June.“It’s time to stop the fighting and get to work.”- Sarah Morgenthau, Democratic congressional candidateMagaziner is running on a relatively conventional Democratic platform. In his TV ads, he has emphasized his support for abortion rights and stricter gun laws, as well as his commitment to protecting Social Security and Medicare.Advertisement“I’m running for Congress because I want to make it easier for working people to get ahead and build a good, stable life,” he declared in a Sept. 1 debate.There are signs, however, that Magaziner would resemble more business-friendly members of the House Democratic Caucus, though not quite to the extent of the party’s most conservative outliers. While he has picked up the endorsement of progressive Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, he’s also been endorsed by Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), a prominent moderate. Although Magaziner is refusing to accept contributions from political action committees affiliated with the gun, fossil fuel, and pharmaceutical industries, he has not forsworn money from all corporate PACs. And Web3 Forward, a super PAC that advocates for lighter regulation of the c …

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