PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – One week after joining the Republican Party, state Rep. Karen MacBeth announced Monday she will challenge Congressman David Cicilline in the November election.
MacBeth, a 48-year-old school principal and four-term Cumberland lawmaker, said voters are tired of “career politicians.”
“I switched parties because I have seen firsthand how the principles of politicians are not protecting our schools and not strengthening the middle class. Their principles are power,” she said in a statement. “For politicians, their constituents aren’t you or I. It’s the lobbyists who fund their campaigns.”
MacBeth criticized Rhode Island’s ruling Democrats for the failed 38 Studios deal and the recent approval of truck tolls, and noted that R.I. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello stripped her of the House Oversight Committee’s top spot once she joined the GOP.
“This is the state of politics today,” she said. “If you stand up and speak truth to power they shut you down. I will never apologize for putting people above political power.”
MacBeth becomes the second Republican to announce she will challenge Cicilline, a Democrat and former Providence mayor seeking his fourth two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives. The other is H. Russell Taub of Providence, who announced his bid more than a year ago.
In a statement Monday, Taub welcomed MacBeth to the fray but indicated he plans to stay in the race.
“Don’t fear the primary,” Taub said. “It is a valuable opportunity to get press attention well in advance of when any GOP challenger would otherwise be able to do so in the Ocean State.” He also praised MacBeth for leading legislative inquiries into 38 Studios.
Cicilline already kicked off his re-election campaign at a March 13 event at the Providence Biltmore.
Rich Luchette, a spokesman for Cicilline, said his boss is currently in Russia on a trip with fellow members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to discuss “the need for greater military cooperation in the multi-national effort to defeat ISIS.”
“There are now two candidates for the Republican nomination in Rhode Island’s 1st District,” Luchette said. “Once Republicans have settled on a nominee, there will be plenty of time to engage in a substantive debate on the critical issues facing our country.”
Mattiello and state Rep. Joseph McNamara, chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party, both quickly issued statements backing Cicilline. “His work ethic is second to none and he is extremely responsive to his constituents,” Mattiello said.
Rhode Island Republican Party Chairman Brandon Bell shot back that Mattiello’s support hadn’t helped Cicilline’s sister, Susan Cicilline Buonanno, when she made an unsuccessful bid for a state legislative seat last year.
“The basic question is this: Who do you trust to be honest to the taxpayers?” Bell said in a statement. “Do you trust Karen MacBeth who helped uncover the details of the 38 Studios scandal OR do you trust David Cicilline who tried to cover up the mismanagement of the City of Providence finances.”
In her announcement, MacBeth criticized Cicilline for his handling of Providence’s finances while he was mayor, as well as his support for the Iran nuclear deal. “He voted to unfreeze over $100 billion worth of assets for the Iranian regime, making a nuclear armed Iran more possible today than ever before,” she said. “I promise to stand with Israel, our ally in the Middle East.”
MacBeth faces an uphill battle to win the seat in Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District. The state’s voters have not elected a Republican to the U.S. House since 1992, when then-Congressman Ronald Machtley won his final re-election race.
The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan Washington elections forecaster, rates Rhode Island’s 1st District as a “Solid Democratic” seat, with a built-in 15-point advantage for Cicilline’s party. (The district may no longer exist after 2022 if Rhode Island loses one of its two House seats following the next U.S. Census.)
Cicilline’s victory margins have grown steadily in the three contests since he first ran for Congress six years ago. He defeated John Loughlin with 51% of the vote in 2010, Brendan Doherty with 53% in 2012, and Cormick Lynch with 60% in 2014.
Cicilline had $548,141 in his campaign account as of Dec. 31, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Taub had less than $3,000 and MacBeth has not yet opened an account, according to the commission’s website.
In Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District, longtime incumbent Jim Langevin will be seeking a ninth two-year term in November. Steven Archer of Warwick has created a Facebook page announcing he will challenge Langevin in the Democratic primary.
“Langevin has absolutely no problem allowing known illegal migration and actually supports it with our hard earned money,” Archer wrote in a recent post.
Gary Sasse, a Republican and former aide to Gov. Don Carcieri, has also been flirting with the idea of challenging Langevin, though he has not made a decision yet.
Langevin had $723,378 in his campaign account as of Dec. 31, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Archer has not yet opened an account, according to the commission’s website.Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes The Saturday Morning Post. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi