PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Former state Rep. David Segal, a prominent progressive activist in Rhode Island and nationally, confirmed Wednesday he is considering entering the Democratic primary to succeed Congressman Jim Langevin.
Segal, 42, said he is establishing an exploratory committee with the Federal Election Commission to begin raising money for a potential campaign to win the 2nd Congressional District seat. He said he expects to make a final decision about whether to run in the coming weeks.
“People believe that the government should be able to do more for them, and they are right,” Segal said in a statement. “Effective progressive leaders need to know how to build broad coalitions, with clear purposes, that address shared concerns – and that’s what I’ve done on the local, state, and federal levels for the last 20 years.”
Segal has been out of elected politics in Rhode Island for a decade, since his unsuccessful 2010 run in the Democratic primary for the state’s other congressional seat. (That race was won by David Cicilline.) After living in Washington for a period, Segal moved in 2016 to his current home in Providence, which lies in the 2nd District.
Five Democrats have formally launched campaigns for the 2nd District nomination since Langevin unexpectedly announced his retirement last month: General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, former state Rep. Ed Pacheco, former political staffer Joy Fox, Refugee Dream Center founder Omar Bah, and political operative Michael Neary. A sixth, Providence firefighter Cameron Moquin, has also filed paperwork to run.
Multiple other Democrats are also considering entering the race, including U.S. Commerce Department official Sarah Morgenthau and state Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee. The filing deadline isn’t until the end of June.
Magaziner — who abandoned a run for governor last month to enter the 2nd District primary — has been working to establish himself as the leading contender among Democrats. Since shifting his existing campaign apparatus to the congressional race, a spokesperson said he has stockpiled over $500,000 and secured multiple union endorsements.
Segal’s entry into the race would test the appetite among Democratic primary voters for a more progressive alternative to other establishment-oriented Democrats.
While the 2nd District remains Democratic-leaning overall, it is seen as more friendly territory for Republicans than the 1st District, represented by Cicilline. That has given the GOP hope that the party could score an upset in November if the national political environment doesn’t improve for Democrats. The GOP’s most prominent candidate so far is former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, but state Sen. Jessica de la Cruz and former state Rep. Robert Lancia are also seeking the GOP nomination.
A Maryland native, Segal moved to Providence in 2001 after graduating from Columbia University and quickly became involved in the city’s progressive activist community.
The following year, he was elected to the Providence City Council as a member of the Green Party (briefly making him the council’s minority leader). Segal later switched his affiliation to the Democratic Party, winning a seat in the R.I. House of Representatives in 2006 that he held for two terms before his unsuccessful run for Congress.
In both positions, Segal pushed to move policy to the left, advocating on issues such as union organizing, alternative energy mandates, LGBT rights, higher taxes on upper-income residents, and protections for undocumented immigrants.
In late 2010, after his defeat in the 1st District primary, Segal co-founded the national advocacy group Demand Progress. Over the years the organization has expanded its focus from internet-related policies such as copyright enforcement and net neutrality to banking regulation, federal appointments and the war in Yemen. (Demand Progress describes itself as “a fiscally sponsored project” of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a deep-pocketed liberal group.)
“I’ve worked to bring people together to protect local services and school funding; address housing affordability; stand up for civil rights and liberties; protect the environment; guard people and small businesses against abuses by banks, cable companies, big tech, and other corporate monopolies; and expand opportunities for working families,” Segal said in his statement. “These are the priorities and values I’d bring with me to Congress.”
Georgia Hollister Isman, the New England regional director of the progressive Working Families Party, said she was among those encouraging Segal to seek Langevin’s seat, arguing it would give primary voters “an exciting progressive option.”
“As a Rhode Island state committee and Working Families Party national committee member, we see firsthand that his record of building democratic institutions and bringing together broad coalitions has paved the way for legislative action at every level that makes a real difference in people’s lives,” she said in an email.
National political forecasters continue to see the Democratic Party as favored to hold the 2nd District seat, which Joe Biden won by double-digits over Donald Trump two years ago.
David Wasserman, U.S. House editor at The Cook Political Report in Washington, on Tuesday rated the 2nd District race as “Lean Democrat,” describing Republicans as having “a rare long-shot opportunity” to win the seat. A team of analysts led by University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato have classified the race as “Likely Democratic” but added that they “would not write off Fung’s chances in a GOP wave-style environment.”
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook