Former Rep. Ed Pacheco to seek Langevin seat; de la Cruz mulling a campaign

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A former state lawmaker and Rhode Island Democratic Party chairman plans to announce a bid for Congressman Jim Langevin’s seat on Monday, while an up-and-coming Republican state legislator confirmed Friday she’s among those considering a run.

Former Rep. Ed Pacheco, who represented Burrillville in the R.I. House of Representatives from 2005 through 2010, has spent the week preparing a campaign for the 2nd Congressional District seat and will formally kick off on Monday, according to a person familiar with the situation. Pacheco’s decision was first reported by The Boston Globe.

Pacheco, 40, served as chairman of the state party from 2010 to 2013, when he resigned to pursue an unsuccessful bid for secretary of state. He withdrew from that race nearly a year before the primary, which was eventually won Nellie Gorbea. In recent years he has been working as a senior official at Rhode Island College.

Langevin’s unexpected retirement announcement on Tuesday has left would-be candidates and other political insiders scrambling to make decisions about mounting a congressional campaign, with just eight months left before the September primary. Langevin, a Democrat, has held the seat since the 2000 election.

Barring another announcement before Monday, Pacheco could be the first Democrat to kick off a campaign, though he certainly won’t be the last. State Sen. Joshua Miller is seen as seriously contemplating a bid. Other Democrats who have expressed interest or been mentioned include state Reps. Carol Hagan McEntee and Teresa Tanzi, state Sen. Sam Bell, and former R.I. State Police Col. Brendan Doherty. Additional names are expected to surface in the coming days.

While Rhode Island is a reliably blue state — the Democratic nominee has won nearly every federal or statewide election in the state this century — Republicans also see an opportunity in the 2nd District. GOP leaders hope that the district’s more conservative lean compared with the 1st District could make its nominee competitive, particularly with President Biden’s job approval rating sinking.

State Sen. Jessica de la Cruz, a second-term North Smithfield Republican, said Friday she’s weighing whether to enter the Republican primary to replace Langevin.

“I’ve had a lot of people — a lot of people — call me and ask me if I would run, if I would consider, and I will say — I’m taking a serious look at it,” she said. “But I’ve really enjoyed, honestly, the work that I’ve done in the state Senate and I feel like we’re just starting to make a difference, the Republican caucus. It’s a very big decision, and it’s something that I need to consider with my family.”

De la Cruz, 40, said it’s “too early” to lay out a timeline for when she might make a decision.

One Republican — former state Rep. Robert Lancia — was already running for the 2nd District seat before Langevin’s retirement announcement, seeking a rematch after he ran unsuccessfully in 2020. In recent days, much of the attention on the GOP side has centered on the potential candidacy of former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who confirmed earlier this week he is weighing whether to enter the race.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) 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