Seth Magaziner will run for Congress. The Rhode Islander drops out of governor's race

·5 min read

CRANSTON — General Treasurer Seth Magaziner left the Rhode Island governor's race Wednesday to run for Congress.

After a week thinking about it since U.S. Rep. James Langevin announced he would not seek reelection, Democrat Magaziner said he made the switch to prevent the state's Second Congressional District from falling into Republican hands.

"We cannot take the risk that a Republican represent Rhode Island in the U.S. Congress, not in this cycle, not in this of all years," Magaziner told reporters at a news conference in the Edgewood neighborhood of Cranston.

He mentioned former GOP president Donald Trump three times during the 16-minute gathering.

Magaziner, who has been treasurer since 2015, enters a Democratic primary field for the Second District that already includes announced candidates Omar Bah and Edwin Pacheco.

A number of other potential candidates are mulling getting into the race, but Magaziner's entry may change their political calculus.

Who are the political players: Who's in and who's definitely out in scramble for Langevin's House of Representatives seat

RI Treasurer Seth Magaziner
RI Treasurer Seth Magaziner

Will it stay a Democratic seat: Langevin retirement fuels RI GOP's hopes for U.S. House seat

On the Republican side, state Sen. Jessica de la Cruz and former state Rep. Bob Lancia have said they plan to run.

What Seth Magaziner's entry into the Congressional race mean

At the same time, Magaziner's move begins to consolidate a crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary field, which features incumbent Gov. Dan McKee, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, 2018 candidate Luis Daniel Muñoz and former Secretary of State Matt Brown.

"Magaziner's announcement changes the dynamics of the Democratic gubernatorial primary immediately," Brown University political science professor Wendy Schiller wrote Wednesday.

"Magaziner was poised to take a large portion of the moderate to liberal wing of the Democratic primary. Without him in the race, Gorbea and Foulkes may position themselves as the business-friendly and gender alternatives to McKee, while Brown and Muñoz have more space to work with in attracting votes from the liberal wing of the party."

Long-time Rhode Island pollster Joseph Fleming said Magaziner clearly comes into the Congressional race with statewide name recognition, a lot of money he can potentially tap and a record he can talk about — from the school bonds campaign to pension fund gains — that give him “an early advantage.”

But “we’re still like eight months out from the Democratic primary, so a lot can change,” Fleming said.

As for which candidate for governor benefits the most from Magaziner’s switch, Fleming said: “I would think that Nellie would get some benefit from it due to the fact that now you don't have three statewide, well known names running. You are down to two."

“Seth Magaziner is looked at as fairly progressive … I don’t see those votes going to [incumbent] Dan McKee.”

Fewer candidates also changes the political math. “Now, for Dan McKee to win the primary, he needs a bigger number than he did before.”

Magaziner, 38, lives on the East Side of Providence and grew up in Bristol, neither place in the Second Congressional District, which encompasses the western half of the state.

On Wednesday he said has been looking at real estate and plans to move to Second District, but wouldn't give any idea of when or whether it would only be on the condition of winning the seat.

"For the last seven years I have served the people of the second district as treasurer," Magaziner said. "We need in this district, in this year, a candidate who has a track record of running and winning in the district. I live 1 mile from the district today."

Magaziner had $1.6 million in his state campaign account at the end of September, the most of any of the candidates for governor.

Asked whether donors to his gubernatorial campaign will be offered a refund, Magaziner said he "will honor their preferences and desires."

Magaziner's interest in running for Congress first emerged last weekend, when he began floating the idea to supporters and top Democrats in Washington ramped up a search for a top-tier candidate to replace Langevin.

Magaziner on Wednesday declined to divulge who he had spoken to about the race, but said he had "consulted widely with a number of people I respect."

He disagreed with the suggestion that polls showing him behind his gubernatorial rivals precipitated the move.

"We haven't done a poll in the governor's race in many months," he said.

Minutes after Magaziner's announcement, Gorbea said he has "served Rhode Island ably as Treasurer and will bring his ideas for how to innovate in the areas of infrastructure, education and climate to the congressional race."

Bah in an email said Magaziner's entrance to the Congressional race "if anything, it gives me the strength and resolve to be more committed to this race."

A spokesman for Pacheco said: "Nothing changes. Ed is in it for the long haul."

State Rep. Carol McEntee said Magaziner's announcement made no difference in her thinking. She said she is still seriously exploring a run for the Congressional seat, and talking to consultants.

"I like Seth Magaziner and he has done a good job as treasurer,'' she said. But "I think it's hard to back a Democrat who doesn’t live in the district...I think it is time for the Democratic Party to endorse a woman who lives in the 2nd Congressional District."

"I think this is an inside deal,'' she added. "People are making this decision, higher places than me, that this is the way it should go. And you know what, they are under-estimating the voter."

Who does she believe choreographed this? "Obviously the powers-that-be."

If elected, Magaziner said he would, among other things, push for school construction money from Washington and the passage of a "Green New Deal."

On the polarized and at times dysfunctional atmosphere in Washington, Magaziner said he had been encouraged by an emerging cohort of younger lawmakers, but stopped short of saying current veteran House leaders should step aside.

"I have a tremendous well of respect for Nancy Pelosi.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Seth Magaziner will run for Congress not Rhode Island governor in 2022

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