PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The race to replace Congressman David Cicilline continued to take shape on Monday morning, as former gubernatorial candidate Helena Foulkes announced she won’t seek the seat and state Sen. Sandra Cano jumped into the race.
“This wasn’t an easy decision,” Foulkes, 58, said in a statement.
“I’m deeply passionate about serving the people of Rhode Island and incredibly honored that so many of you believe that I would represent you and your families well in Washington,” she continued. “But right now, I believe that I can have a bigger impact in the long run by working with members of our community on local issues here at home.”
Foulkes also hinted that she is considering another bid for governor in 2026, after nearly wresting the Democratic nomination from incumbent Dan McKee in last year’s primary.
“From our housing crisis to our struggling public schools to the test of the new economy, the challenges facing our state are real and immediate,” she said. “I want to help fix them here.”
The decision by Foulkes, a former CVS executive, comes one week after Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos jumped into the race. It also comes just days after another prominent Democrat, House Speaker Joe Shekarchi, announced he would take a pass on the contest.
Foulkes and Shekarchi were widely seen as the potential candidates who would have the easiest time raising a significant amount of money, and their absence from the field is expected to create an even more wide-open contest.
Cano, a Pawtucket Democrat who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said she had been pleased with the response over recent weeks as she sounded out supporters about whether to run. She was first elected to the General Assembly in 2018.
“Our community needs someone who knows what it is like to face the challenges that so many of our neighbors face on a daily basis; someone with the life experience and Democratic values to fight for working families across our state,” Cano, 39, said in a statement.
She said her priorities in Congress would include the rights of labor unions, affordable health care and a national assault-weapons ban. She noted that she would be the first woman to represent the 1st District, the first Latina to represent Rhode Island in Congress, and the first Colombian immigrant in Congress.
Cano’s news release emphasized that she “is the first announced candidate who actually resides in Congressional District 1” and is “a longtime resident of District 1” — a clear shot at Matos, who lives in the 2nd District. (Legally, candidates are only required to live in the state they want to represent in Congress, not the House district they seek.)
Cano (pronounced “CAH-no”) is the fiancée of General Treasurer James Diossa, with whom she has two children, Arianna and Alessandro.
Cicilline’s surprise resignation — which will take effect June 1, when he becomes president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation — has created Rhode Island’s second open U.S. House seat in as many years, an unusual turn of events in a state where members of Congress usually stay put for years.
A number of other Democrats are considering a 1st District bid, including state Sen. Dawn Euer, Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien, Biden White House official Gabe Amo, Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera, Democratic National Committeewoman Liz Beretta-Perik, Jamestown investor Don Carlson, and Providence City Councilor John Goncalves.
No Republicans have announced campaigns so far, though the party’s 2022 nominee for lieutenant governor, Aaron Guckian, is among those who’ve expressed interest in running.
Only two candidates have formally filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for the 1st District seat: Allen Waters, who was the Republican nominee against Cicilline last year but is running this time as a Democrat, and political newcomer, Mickeda Barnes.
The primary is expected to take place in August or September, with the special election two months later.
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