CRANSTON, R.I. — Four months after announcing his long-expected run for governor, Democratic General Treasurer Seth Magaziner on Wednesday pivoted and announced he will instead run for Congress.
The announcement comes eight days after Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin announced he won’t seek re-election this year after 22 years in office.
“The fight to preserve our democracy is the most sacred obligation of this generation and this is why I’ve decided to seek to represent the people of Rhode Island’s second congressional district in the United States House of Representatives,” Magaziner said in a statement.
“National Republicans like Donald Trump and Kevin McCarthy seek to divide America, undermine democracy, and appeal to the most chaotic, hateful and dangerous elements of their party. Rhode Island must do our part to ensure that they do not succeed,” he said.
Magaziner accused Republicans in Washington, D.C., of caring more about doing former President Donald Trump’s bidding than about defending the Constitution or helping working families.
“It’s critical Rhode Island Democrats field a proven general election candidate who can prevent the Republicans from taking back this seat in Congress,” he said.
Magaziner lives on Providence’s East Side in the 1st Congressional District, but candidates are not required to live in the 2nd Congressional District to run for the seat – they just have to be state residents.
Over the weekend, Democratic Party powerbrokers tried to convince Magaziner, former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, and Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea to drop out of the crowded primary for governor and run for Congress, arguing that any one of them could clear the emerging field of lesser-known Democrats expected to enter the race this week.
Foulkes and Gorbea ruled out the possibility, but Magaziner left the door open saying he remained in the governor’s race “at this time.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Magaziner fielded questions from reporters at the William Hall Library in Cranston. He had faced criticism for not taking questions from reporters immediately following his announcement for governor in September.
When asked what he’d say to those who view his decision as opportunistic, he said, “I say that we need to hold this seat in Democratic hands. We need a candidate on the Democratic ticket who has run in the district, won in the district, represented the district for the last seven years, as I have as state treasurer. We need to maximize our chances of winning this seat.”
When asked if he’s worried about facing any particular GOP candidate, Magaziner said, “I am worried about any Republican. I mean, this is a district where Hillary Clinton only got 51 percent of the vote. We are in what pundits are saying could be a wave Republican year nationally. So this is not a seat that Democrats can sleep on.”
Polling numbers had nothing to do with his decision to leave the governor’s race, Magaziner said. “It’s been a very hard decision,” he said. “But what it ultimately came down to for me is where can I have the most impact for Rhode Islanders.”
Magaziner said he would run for Congress by focusing on issues such as education, climate change, and infrastructure. He said the federal infrastructure bill includes a lot of good things but nothing for school construction. And he said, “The very first bill that I am going to put in when I am down there is a bill to give health care workers a raise.”
Magaziner, who has a 3-month-old son, said his family plans to move into the 2nd Congressional District. “I can’t put an exact time line on it,” he said. “We are going to look at houses. We are going to see what we find, how soon we find it, but we are committed to it.”
At the end of the third quarter of 2021, Magaziner was leading the field of gubernatorial candidates in fund-raising after collecting $255,000 in the third quarter and ending with $1,580,419 in his campaign account. Fourth quarter fund-raising reports are due Jan. 31.
But Magaziner will not be able to simply shift the $1.58 million into a federal campaign account. Rather, he would need to return the cash to his donors and ask them to give to his congressional campaign.
“I am going to have conversation with my donors and my supporters and honor their preferences,” he said. “But I will be asking for all of their support in the congressional race.”
When asked about criticism that Langevin has faced over trading stocks while in office, Magaziner said, “Members of Congress should not be trading individual stocks, period.”
When asked who he will support in the governor’s race, he said, “Whoever the Democratic nominee is.”
After Magaziner’s announcement, Gorbea issued a statement, saying, “Seth Magaziner has served Rhode Island ably as treasurer and will bring his ideas for how to innovate in the areas of infrastructure, education and climate to the congressional race.”
Foulkes took to Twitter to thank Magaziner “for your commitment to reproductive freedom, strong schools, and good-paying jobs in the governor’s race. While we won’t share a debate stage anymore, I’m sure I’ll see you out on the campaign trail!”
Thank you, @sethmagaziner, for your commitment to reproductive freedom, strong schools, and good-paying jobs in the Governor’s race. While we won't share a debate stage anymore, I’m sure I’ll see you out on the campaign trail!— Helena Buonanno Foulkes (@HelenaBFoulkes) January 26, 2022
Magaziner, 38, was born in Bristol, the son of Ira Magaziner, chief health care policy adviser for former President Bill Clinton. He graduated from Brown University and received a master of business administration degree for Yale University. He became state treasurer in 2015, succeeding now-US Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo, and he is now term limited.
Magaziner will join a Democratic field of candidates that already includes Omar Bah, founder and executive director of the Refugee Dream Center in Providence, and Edwin R. Pacheco, a former state representative and chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party.
Former state Representative Robert B. Lancia, a Cranston Republican who lost to Langevin in 2020, is running for the 2nd Congressional District seat again this year. But other Republicans might soon join him in the race, including former Cranston Mayor and two-time gubernatorial Allan W. Fung and Senator Jessica de la Cruz, a North Smithfield Republican.
A long list of other Democrats have said they are considering jumping into the race. On Wednesday, former state Representative Stephen Ucci, a Johnston Democrat, said he had decided against running for the 2nd Congressional District seat.
“I appreciate everyone’s time and patience as I thought through my decisions,” Ucci said. “But now is not the right time personally and professionally. It is humbling to be thought of, and I wish other candidates well.”
Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.