PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – With Democrats bracing for the possibility of losing a U.S. House seat in Rhode Island for the first time in more than three decades, some predict the high-profile race could also buoy Republicans in contests further down the ballot.

The 2nd Congressional District race between Republican Allan Fung and Democrat Seth Magaziner for weeks has captured the attention of national media and triggered massive spending from outside groups, as both parties jockey for an edge in a race that public polling has shown Republicans leading by single-digits.

The congressional race has also overshadowed some of the other races on the ballot Tuesday, including lieutenant governor, general treasurer and even – to a lesser degree – governor.

The dynamic – along with only a limited numbers of high-stakes races at the local level – has some predicting voter turnout could be suppressed in certain Democratic strongholds within the 1st Congressional District, including Providence, Pawtucket, East Providence, North Providence and Cumberland.

“In the past, Democrats in Rhode Island have done better getting the vote out than Republicans,” 12 News political analyst Joe Fleming said. “The problem that Democrats have this year is … there are not a lot of competitive races in CD1 – there’s not a ton of reasons to draw the voters out.”

As of midday Monday, turnout data tracked by the secretary of state’s office showed about 92,000 people had either voted early in-person or through a mail ballot. And most of the 10 municipalities with the highest turnout lie either entirely or partly inside the 2nd District, which voting rolls show has more registered Republicans than the more Democrat-heavy 1st District.

Providence has the most registered voters in the state, with 124,000 voters split between both districts. But fewer than 6,000 Providence residents had cast an early ballot as of midday Monday, ranking the city third in the state behind Warwick and Cranston, respectively.

It’s likely those rankings will shift on Tuesday when more precincts open up to voting. But Democrat Brett Smiley is running unopposed in the city’s race for mayor and most of the Providence City Council contests are all but decided, giving voters few other reasons to go to to the polls.

Fleming said the capital city’s lack of competitive races could translate into turnout staying relatively low compared to past elections, including in 2014, when Jorge Elorza narrowly defeated Vincent “Buddy” Cianci in a mayoral race that captured national attention because of Cianci’s criminal history.

And low turnout in Providence – where eight of every ten voters cast ballots for Democrat Joe Biden over Republican Donald Trump in 2020 – could hurt statewide Democratic candidates. Fleming said he sees a similar pattern playing out in Pawtucket, North Providence, East Providence and Cumberland.

“There’s not a lot of local reasons to draw the voters out,” Fleming said. “Even the House and Senate races, there’s not a lot of competitive races that are drawing a lot of attention at this point. So, it could suppress the turnout in some of these areas.”

Data as of noon 11/7/2022 (Courtesy/R.I. Secretary of State’s Office)

Of course, Republicans always have an uphill battle in Rhode Island, a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by three to one. And there are some high-interest issues in some of the 1st District’s smaller communities that could bolster turnout at a lower volume.

Those issues include a referendum on school regionalization on Aquidneck Island. In Woonsocket, ousted Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt is running an aggressive unopposed race to get her seat back, aiming to win big so that she might help dispel any uncertainty about whether voters want her there — and get her allies elected to the City Council.

But there’s some evidence to suggest Democrats are nervous in the final days of the election. Late last week, the Democratic Governors Association dumped another $260,000 into the governor’s race to attack Republican Ashley Kalus, who is seeking to defeat incumbent Democrat Dan McKee.

“Dan McKee should win Providence very big, but if the turnout is smaller than it was four years ago, that is not a very good sign for Dan McKee,” Fleming said. “Then I’m going to look at a place like Warwick. Warwick is a big bellwether in the state of Rhode Island. I want to see how Dan McKee is doing in Warwick, is he breaking even, winning or losing. That’s going to tell us a lot.”

The Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association PAC, meanwhile, funneled $100,000 into Rhode Island to support Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, who is trying to fend off a competitive challenge from Republican Aaron Guckian. Fleming said Matos, who formerly served as president of the Providence City Council, is favored to win, but she needs strong support from her hometown, along with the surrounding metro areas.

The Democratic nominee for general treasurer, James Diossa, meanwhile, received about $323,000 in matching public funds last month which he then spent mostly on advertising, according to his latest campaign report. By comparison, Republican candidate James Lathrop spent about $18,700 during that time period.

With no public polling done in any of the races since early last month, Fleming said it’s difficult to know what the campaigns might be seeing internally. But the 2nd District race could be giving Republican candidates some support they haven’t seen in recent years, he added.

“Is there a red wave that’s coming across the country?” Fleming said. “If there is, that could help some of these down-ballot people in the state of Rhode Island.”

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Ted Nesi contributed to this report.