PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — General Treasurer Seth Magaziner will abandon his race for governor to run in the Democratic primary for Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District, his campaign announced Wednesday.
Magaziner, who is term-limited as treasurer, had kicked off his gubernatorial bid in September. But he’s now decided to switch races following the surprise announcement last week by Congressman Jim Langevin that he would retire rather than seek re-election.
“The fight of our generation is happening in Washington right now,” Magaziner said during a news conference Wednesday, arguing the Democratic Party needs a strong candidate in the race to ensure the Republican Party doesn’t pick up a seat in the more conservative-leaning congressional district.
“Democrats have to hold this seat, period,” he said.
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The 38-year-old Providence resident lives in the 1st Congressional District, not the 2nd, which is allowed in congressional races. But his home address nonetheless raised questions about whether he could garner enough voter support in a district where he doesn’t even live.
Magaziner defended his residency, saying he currently represents all constituents of the 2nd District as state treasurer, and he has a proven track record of winning elections there. He also committed to moving to the 2nd District, although he declined to offer a timeline about whether that would happen before or after the elections this fall.
The 1st District is currently represented by U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, also a Providence Democrat.
“I’ve been to every community in the district, I have listened to people’s concerns and thoughts and aspirations in every community in the 2nd District,” Magaziner said. “And I’ve won elections in the 2nd District, which is again the case we’re making here. We need in this year a candidate who has a track record of running and winning in the district. I live one mile away from the district today and yes we are committed to moving to the 2nd District.”
Pacheco welcomed Magaziner to the race in a statement, saying in part, “As a lifelong resident of the 2nd Congressional District, a husband to a frontline healthcare worker, a father to a working family and raised by a single mother, I’ve seen firsthand the struggles Rhode Islanders are facing.”
Two other Democrats, former state Rep. Ed Pacheco and Omar Bah, founder of the Refugee Dream Center, have formally announced runs for Langevin’s seat. Outgoing state Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, whose public profile skyrocketed throughout the pandemic, is among several others weighing whether to enter the race as a Democrat.
On the Republican side, former state Rep. Bob Lancia had already announced a run prior to Langevin’s retirement announcement. State Sen. Jessica de la Cruz announced Sunday night she plans to enter the GOP primary, and former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung is also considering a bid for the office.
“This is serious business this year,” Magaziner said. “Trump is not going away. Kevin McCarthy is not going away. This is a year the pundits say could be a year when Republicans are on the offensive nationally. We can’t mess around and we have to hold this seat.”
Magaziner’s exit from the crowded gubernatorial primary whittles down the Democratic field of challengers to former Secretary of State Matt Brown, former CVS Health executive Helena Foulkes, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz. The candidates are all seeking to unseat Gov. Dan McKee, who hasn’t formally announced his run yet.
Gorbea, who lives in the 2nd Congressional District, was quick to announce last week she would be staying in the governor’s race despite Langevin’s announcement.
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In a statement Wednesday, she said, “Seth Magaziner 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.”
Magaziner had been leading the pack of gubernatorial candidates in political fundraising, boasting a $1.7 million war chest as of the Sept. 30. But he will not be allowed to spend the money on his congressional campaign, meaning he will either have to find new donors, ask existing supporters for more money or offer to refund state dollars and hope donors will spend the money instead on his congressional campaign.
The Democrat has also loaned his state campaign about $700,000 of his own money, which he could pay back and move to his congressional campaign. Magaziner said Wednesday he would spend the rest of his day talking with supporters.
“My hope is that many will support us in the congressional race,” he said.
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.