PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Democratic Congressman Jim Langevin is calling it quits after 11 terms, announcing Tuesday he has decided to retire rather than seek re-election this fall.
“I’m very honored and privileged to have been able to represent the people of the 2nd District for all these many years,” Langevin told 12 News after announcing his decision in an op-ed on the Providence Journal website. “But I felt that now was just the right time to do something different.”
Langevin said he spent the last several months reflecting on whether he should retire, and took the holidays to make a decision. He said he has no new job lined up and plans to finish out the final year of his current term, saying he wants to focus in particular on recovering from the pandemic.
“There’ll be time as I think about what the next step would be, but it will be something that will keep me hopefully closer to home, not an airplane, and be able to have a better work-life balance,” he said. “I’ve burned the candle at both ends for a long time.”
Langevin joins more than two dozen other House Democrats who have announced plans to retire this year, as experts say the party is at serious risk of losing its majority due to President Biden’s sagging approval ratings and voter frustration over issues like COVID and inflation. But Langevin insisted he thinks Democrats still have a chance to hold the majority despite his decision to step aside.
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Langevin’s surprise announcement instantly scrambles the Rhode Island political landscape, creating the state’s first open congressional seat since 2010, when Democrat Patrick Kennedy retired. Many prominent politicians are likely to consider a bid for the seat.
“It could be a very interesting race,” said 12 News political analyst Joe Fleming.
On the Democratic side, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea quickly sent a tweet reaffirming her commitment to run for governor amid speculation she could be a candidate for the 2nd District seat. Another prominent name being floated was House Speaker Joe Shekarchi, who lives in Warwick, but he said in a statement, “Today is a day to recognize [Langevin’s] personal achievements and accomplishments, not for future political speculation.”
Fleming noted that there are multiple Democratic mayors and state lawmakers who might be interested in the job, as well. State Sen. Joshua Miller was among those who acknowledged he is considering a campaign.
While Republicans haven’t won a U.S. House race in Rhode Island since the 1990s, the 2nd District is friendlier to the GOP than the 1st District — held by David Cicilline — giving the party hope of being competitive if a strong Republican candidate emerges.
Former state Rep. Bob Lancia, who lost to Langevin in 2020, was already running again. Other names initially being floated for the GOP nomination include former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and House Minority Leader Blake Filippi, as well as other state lawmakers.
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Fleming said potential candidates will need to act fast. “The election is only a little more than 10 months away now — you have to raise money fairly quickly and get started, especially if you have a primary,” he said.
Langevin, 57, carved out a reputation over the years as a low-key lawmaker more drawn to issues like cybersecurity than the partisan fireworks of modern politics, though he has usually still been a reliable vote for House Democratic leadership on legislation. In addition to his work on cyber, he said he was particularly proud of his vote for the Affordable Care Act and his efforts around national security.
He also made history as the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress, the result of a firearms accident when he was 16 years old, and has long advocated for people with disabilities.
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Langevin represents the 2nd Congressional District, covering the western half of Rhode Island. A year ago many observers expected the state to lose one of its two congressional seats once the new census numbers came out, but a higher-than-expected population count allowed the state to keep both for another decade.
In a statement, Cicilline called Langevin a “true friend and trusted partner in government.”
“The story of Jim Langevin will forever be remembered as one of perseverance and a dedication to public service,” Cicilline said. “It is one that will inspire our colleagues in government today and the future leaders of our state and nation for generations to come.”
Langevin has been in public office for his entire adult life, ever since he was elected to the 1986 Constitutional Convention at the age of 22. He went on to serve in the General Assembly, then won election as secretary of state in 1994. Six years later, he won a four-way Democratic primary to succeed Robert Weygand, who had given up his seat to make an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate.
Langevin has won re-election 10 times since then, defeating a series of Republican opponents as well as occasional primary challengers from the left.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 Threads, Twitter and Facebook.