For years, Rhode Island political figures had all warned of the same thing: The state could be facing a political showdown come 2022. But census figures released earlier this week show that not to be the case, dramatically rearranging the gubernatorial race next year.
Rhode Island’s two congressional seats are filled by two Democrats, David Cicilline and James Langevin. Both have been prominent figures in state politics for decades, Cicilline since he became mayor of Providence in 2003 and Langevin since he was elected Secretary of State in 1994.
But many thought Rhode Island’s population would not grow enough by 2020 to keep its second congressional district, eliminating Langevin’s seat and potentially pitting the two politicians against each other
In preparation for the loss of a seat, Cicillini raised $655,000 during the first three months of 2021, a single-quarter record for a Rhode Island US House candidate. By comparison, Langevin raised only $118,000.
The loss of a seat proved not to be the case, with the state growing by nearly 43,000 residents since 2010. Unlike California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York, Rhode Island will keep both of its seats.
That changes the political dynamic of the 2022 race. One of Langevin or Cicillini were previously expected to bow out of the race to prevent a clash — with Langevin perhaps running for governor in 2022 — that is no longer necessary. Langevin can keep his seat.
This also prevents a bottleneck in the gubernatorial race. Newly-minted governor Dan McKee has already announced his plans to run, while General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Providence mayor Jorge Elorza are also potential candidates.
This race is shaping up to be highly competitive, with McKee’s rivals already having significant funding on hand — including Magaziner, who has more than $1 million set aside for his campaign. But removing Langevin from the equation makes things just that much easier for a governor who has struggled with fundraising in the past.
That doesn’t mean McKee is a shoe-in for the position. It’s still an incredibly competitive race, and McKee — who lucked into the governorship when Gina Raimondo resigned to become Secretary of Commerce — might not be able to win over voters who never chose him to be governor.
At the same time, though, McKee will likely luck into another convenient situation: a fully-vaccinated population and rebounding economy. That, coupled with the fact that he has already been elected state-wide as lieutenant governor, could be enough.
Besides a decrease in federal representation and a political showdown, holding on to Rhode Island’s two congressional districts means the state avoids losing federal funding that’s allocated by congressional seat. Rhode Island will keep funding for highways, schools and social services that are based on population.
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