CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) — Former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa announced Monday he’s running for Rhode Island general treasurer, becoming the first candidate to officially enter the race.

The 36-year-old Democrat served two terms as mayor of the state’s smallest city before exiting in January because of term limits. In a prepared statement, Diossa said he wants to serve in the statewide office to move Rhode Island forward with “common sense leadership, sound fiscal management and a commitment to transparency.”

“Next year I will be a candidate for General Treasurer,” Diossa said. “I believe the government needs to serve the people — not the other way around. As General Treasurer, I will continue working toward positive change for my state through hard work and honesty, because that’s the kind of leader Rhode Islanders deserve.” 

Diossa, who is running to replace the term-limited Seth Magaziner, currently works at The Policy Lab at Brown University. He took the position shortly after leaving his job in Central Falls and around the same time he was passed over for the job of lieutenant governor.

The former mayor was named as a finalist for the state’s No. 2 job in March, but Gov. Dan McKee ultimately picked former Providence City Council President Sabina Matos following an unusual application process that brought in more than 80 applications.

Diossa, who was the first Latino mayor of Central Falls, came into office in 2012 shortly after the cash-strapped city entered into bankruptcy proceedings. He touted his leadership during that rocky time, saying “he never took his eye off the ball.”

“We worked our way back into solvency, and now, Central Falls is back in the black,” he said. “I want to bring that same common sense, decency, and responsibility to the whole state. I’m from Rhode Island, and I will always be for Rhode Island.”

The up-and-coming Democrat is the first person to officially announce his candidacy, but several other well-known names in Rhode Island politics and government have likewise been eyeing the position.

Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor, who has helped two governors navigate the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic, is increasingly discussed as a likely candidate. Liz Beretta-Perik, a longtime Democratic leader and fundraiser who was also a finalist for lieutenant governor earlier this year, told 12 News in September she was “thinking about it seriously.”

State Rep. Marvin Abney, a Newport Democrat who serves as chairman of the powerful House Finance Committee, has publicly expressed interest in the gig, as has his Senate Finance Committee counterpart, Sen. Ryan Pearson, D-Cumberland, who said in September he planned to make a decision either way by the end of the year.

The Boston Globe has reported State Rep. Scott Slater, D-Providence, and former Gov. Gina Raimondo’s special adviser, Nicholas Autiello II, are also entertaining bids for the job.

For the Republican Party, former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung is seriously considering a run, and would enter the race with strong statewide name recognition. The mayor was highly popular in Cranston and mounted two failed gubernatorial campaigns in recent years.

Rhode Island’s general treasurer is largely responsible for overseeing the state’s pension investments, along with other, less well-known financial initiatives. But the office has become a popular stepping stone for politicians with aspirations for higher office, as Raimondo held the office before becoming governor and then U.S. commerce secretary with the Biden administration. She was succeeded by Magaziner, who is now running his own campaign for governor.

Diossa, who lives in Pawtucket with his fiancée, state Sen. Sandra Cano, and their two-year-old daughter, said he would have an official campaign launch next year. But he wanted to announce now “to be honest with Rhode Islanders” and not be coy about his intentions, he said.

By entering the race first and before the end of the year, however, Diossa may get a leg up on fundraising efforts. The former mayor currently has $41,425 on hand and he raised about $19,000 during the third quarter of this year, according to campaign finance documents.

“Friends and supporters around the state have encouraged me to seek this office,” Diossa said. “Because of the urgent need to have a General Treasurer who has a real track record of common sense leadership, sound fiscal management and a commitment to transparency that was my hallmark as mayor.”

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

Ted Nesi and Steph Machado contributed to this story.