PAWTUCKET, R.I. — State treasurer Seth Magaziner on Tuesday officially entered the 2022 race for governor, setting up a Democratic primary that’s expected to include three current state general officers.
The long-expected announcement sets Magaziner on a collision course with Governor Daniel J. McKee, who took office in March and is expected to run for a full term, and Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, who announced her candidacy in May. Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza is also weighing a run, and Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz announced his candidacy in April.
Magaziner, who served as cochair of the Rhode Island School Building Task Force, made his announcement in Pawtucket at the construction site for the Henry J. Winters Elementary School — one of 176 schools being rebuilt or renovated as part of the school construction program.
“I’m running for governor because I know we must invest in education so that no child’s future in this state will be determined by where they are born,” Magaziner said in prepared remarks. “That belief is why I led the fight to pass a billion-dollar program to transform our school buildings, so that every child can go to a school that is warm, safe, dry, and equipped for 21st-century learning.”
Magaziner, who is term-limited, talked about his achievements since becoming treasurer in January 2015. But he also took thinly veiled swipes at McKee, who rode a wave of increasing vaccination rates and businesses reopening before running into rough waters when his chief of staff resigned amid an investigation into whether he used political influence to try to develop wetlands in Cumberland.
”I am running because the only way we can have a strong economic recovery in Rhode Island is by rejecting the cronyism and old school politics that have brought shame to our state for too long,” Magaziner said in the prepared remarks. “Let’s get to work weeding out the old-time politicians who lean whichever way the wind blows, and their cronies who think a job in government is the opportunity to enrich themselves and their friends.”
Magaziner could be facing three Latino candidates in the Democratic primary, and during his announcement, he planned to speak in Spanish, saying, “I am running for governor to build a Rhode Island that works for everyone.”
“Our government must reflect the full diversity of the state,” he said in English, “and we must purposefully break the structural barriers that have held people of color back in our society for far too long.”
Magaziner did not take questions from reporters following his announcement in Pawtucket. He said he would answer questions later in the day.
Magaziner enters the governor’s race with $1.5 million in his campaign account – more than any of his potential rivals, according to reports filed with the state Board of Elections.
He is trailed by Elorza with $1.14 million in his campaign account, McKee with nearly $717,000, Gorbea with $668,000, and Muñoz with $3,600. Meanwhile, Democratic former secretary of state Matt Brown has not said whether he will launch another run for governor.
Magaziner, 38, who lives in Providence, was born in Bristol, the son of Ira Magaziner, the chief health care policy adviser for former President Bill Clinton.
Providence College political science professor Adam S. Myers said Magaziner enters the race as “an unknown quantity, for the most part.” But he said Magaziner’s campaign war chest gives him an advantage that will allow him to tell voters about his policy positions and what he would do as governor.
“He can fill in the blank,” Myers said. “The big advantage he has is the money he is sitting on. It’s double what the governor has.”
Magaziner also has an advantage in having grown up in Bristol, while none of the other Democratic candidates have roots in the East Bay, he said.
But Magaziner will be taking on an incumbent governor who will benefit from regular media attention and rising name recognition, Myers said.
“McKee’s time in office started off really well,” he said. “He has had a few bumps along the way in the last month, but it remains unclear how much those bumps will harm him. He is still the incumbent governor, and the primary is still a year away.”
Much will depend on which “lane” Magaziner chooses to run in, Myers said. If he chooses the progressive lane, he will have a lot of competition, he said. Also, he might be running against several Latino candidates who would have a strong claim to that portion of the primary vote, he said.
Magaziner might try to associate McKee “with all the things that people don’t like about traditional Rhode Island politics,” Myers said. While the line of attack might win him some votes, he will need to be specific about what good government policies he would pursue if he becomes governor, he said.
Rhode Island Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Cienki said the GOP expects to announce a candidate for governor in “early fall.”
Magaziner “is certainly from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party,” Cienki said. “I am sure everyone will be looking at the job he did as treasurer — did he produce enough results to be able to be the governor of the state of Rhode Island?”