Many top local Dems still not backing a presidential candidate


From left, Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC. (AP Photo/John Locher)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Most of the region’s leading elected Democrats are staying on the sidelines as Bernie Sanders emerges as the frontrunner for their party’s presidential nomination.

Sanders’ most prominent local supporters are a handful of state lawmakers — including Sen. Sam Bell of Providence, Sen. Paul Feeney of Foxboro, and Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell of Providence — as well as former Providence Rep. Aaron Regunberg, who nearly defeated Lt. Gov. Dan McKee in the 2018 Democratic primary and is working closely with the Sanders campaign. Various municipal officials have endorsed Sanders, too.

Among the region’s federal lawmakers, only Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III has thrown his support behind a candidate, backing U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren since she got into the race. (Kennedy’s U.S. Senate primary rival, incumbent Ed Markey, has also endorsed Warren.)

But a spokesperson for Kennedy’s House colleague Bill Keating, whose district includes New Bedford, confirmed he has not endorsed a presidential candidate yet and has no timeline for whether he will do so before Massachusetts’ primary next Tuesday.

In Rhode Island, none of the four Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation — U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen David Cicilline and Jim Langevin — has backed a candidate, either, though they don’t have to cast a vote until the Rhode Island primary on April 28.

“Senator Reed is not endorsing a candidate,” spokesperson Chip Unruh told WPRI 12. “He will let the Democratic voters throughout the country decide who their candidate will be and then work hard to unite folks and help that Democratic candidate get elected.”

Whitehouse has tweeted positively in recent weeks about Mike Bloomberg, Joe Biden and Warren, but emphasized on Jan. 25 that he was “not playing favorites” between the latter pair. Cicilline attended fundraisers in Providence for both Biden and Pete Buttigieg last year.

Among Rhode Island’s five statewide officeholders, all Democrats, Gov. Gina Raimondo endorsed Bloomberg last month and continues to rally support for him. She is reportedly holding an event in Boston on Tuesday to boost him, and has said publicly she fears nominating Sanders could hurt the party’s chances of defeating Trump. Lt. Gov. McKee has endorsed Biden.

But the other three — Attorney General Peter Neronha, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea — remain neutral so far. Aides to Neronha and Gorbea indicated they do not plan to pick sides in the primary, while Magaziner said in an email he will make a decision before the April 28 primary and is “fully committed” to supporting the eventual Democratic nominee.

Among local mayors, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza backed Buttigieg months ago and continues to support him. New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell confirmed Monday he is endorsing Warren, his home-state senator. Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux said he is supporting Biden.

“I will support whoever the Democratic nominee but I think that Joe Biden has the best chance of beating Trump,” Heroux said. “Any of the Democrats I believe would be a better pick than Trump. And I also believe that probably any of the other Republicans who ran in 2016 would also have been better than Trump.”

But Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan told WPRI 12 on Monday he does not plan to endorse a presidential candidate before next week’s primary.

Ted Nesi ( is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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