CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – Former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, a two-time Republican nominee for Rhode Island governor, said Wednesday he is considering a run to succeed retiring Democratic Congressman Jim Langevin.
Langevin’s bombshell announcement Tuesday has quickly turned Rhode Island politics upside down, with phone lines lighting up about potential candidates who might seek to fill the seat.
And while Langevin has reliably kept the 2nd Congressional District in Democratic Party hands for the last two decades, Republicans are hopeful that with the right candidate the seat could be competitive for the GOP — especially as President Biden struggles with a weak job approval rating.
Fung praised Langevin for his years of service to Rhode Island at the state and federal level, as well as his breaking barriers for people with disabilities. But he was coy about his own plans.
“It’s been a crazy 24 hours,” Fung said. “I have been talking to people locally and nationally and I am going to take some time to thoughtfully think about this race.”
At least one Republican — former state Rep. Robert Lancia, who unsuccessfully challenged Langevin in 2020 — is already seeking the 2nd District seat. House Minority Leader Blake Filippi, R-New Shoreham, is another Republican who’s been mentioned as a potential candidate.
“Even though Rhode Island is a deep blue state, I think a Republican will have a shot,” Fung said. “People are frustrated — I hear it every day. I’ve heard from a lot of individuals. They’re frustrated, they need a change — so yes, a Republican like myself will have an opportunity in this race.”
12 News political analyst Joe Fleming said Fung has a voter base from his years as mayor of Cranston, the biggest single city in the 2nd District, and where his wife Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung is now a state representative. (Part of Providence is also in the 2nd District.)
David Wasserman, the U.S. House editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said he thinks Republicans still face long odds of winning the 2nd District even if the national environment is friendly to the GOP. He noted that in 2010, after Patrick Kennedy retired, fellow Democrat David Cicilline still managed to win the seat in a brutal year for Democrats.
“It would take a pretty flawed Democratic nominee to put the district in play,” Wasserman said. “That said, there’s a history of such things happening in Rhode Island.”
At the same time, the Democratic field remains highly unsettled, with no candidate jumping into the race during the first 24 hours after Langevin’s announcement. One name that was frequently touted out of the gate — Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea — quickly ruled out ending her current campaign for governor to make a run at the congressional seat.
House Speaker Joe Shekarchi, another Democratic name that has come up frequently, didn’t return a phone call Wednesday about his thinking. Shekarchi has a fundraising network and a base in Warwick, but he would also be giving up what is often described as the most powerful job in Rhode Island politics to seek the seat.
State Rep. Teresa Tanzi, a Narragansett Democrat, said Wednesday she was leaving the door open to running for the 2nd District seat, though she emphasized she is “not calling consultants” at this point.
Calling Langevin’s decision “an absolute shocker,” Tanzi expressed concern that most of the names being floated to run so far are men, and she is still hoping “a rock-star woman” will emerge as a contender for the seat.
“I think that there are incredible issues that need to be brought to the front, and if there isn’t a candidate that’s out there that’s bringing these issues to the front, I think it’s not impossible that I would add my name to the ever-growing list,” Tanzi said.
Ted Nesi (email@example.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