The latest campaign finance reports reveal a big difference in how much candidates are relying on out-of-state money in the 2nd Congressional District race to replace Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin.
In the Democratic primary, former Biden administration official Sarah E. Morgenthau received 95.3 percent of her contributions from out of state, first-quarter Federal Election Commission reports show.
And former state representative David A. Segal, a founder of the progressive group Demand Progress, received 90.8 percent of his contributions from out of state.
By contrast, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner received just 27 percent of his contributions from out of state. And Joy Fox, a former communications director for Langevin, received 37.3 percent of her donations from outside Rhode Island.
In the Republican primary, former Cranston mayor Allan W. Fung received 33 percent of his contributions from out of state. And former state representative Robert B. Lancia received 40.3 percent of his contributions from outside Rhode Island in the first quarter.
Providence College political science professor Adam S. Myers said Morgenthau’s reliance on out-of-state funding reflects her time working in Washington, D.C. “It shows she must be very plugged into the national Democratic donor network,” he said.
But, Myers said, “As the primary gets closer, I assume some of her rivals will attack her based on a ‘carpetbagger’ basis. It would be easy to say this is a woman living in D.C. who moved to Rhode Island to run for Congress, asking voters to send her back to D.C.”
Morgenthau says her family has had a summer residence in Saunderstown for years, and in 1988 her mother, Ruth Morgenthau, ran for the 2nd Congressional District seat as a Democrat against Republican Representative Claudine Schneider.
Morgenthau registered to vote in North Kingstown on Feb. 8 and has no voting record in Rhode Island, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Segal, who is expected to formally announce his candidacy this week, served on the Providence City Council from 2002 to 2006 and as a state legislator from 2007 to 2011. But his work at Demand Progress has given him access to a national network of progressive activists, Myers said.
”I imagine he’s trying to replicate the strategy used by progressive candidates who are taking a page from Bernie Sanders’ playbook, relying on small-dollar donations from progressive activists across the country,” he said.
Rhode Island is often viewed as a parochial state, with bumper stickers that say, “I Never Leave Rhode Island.”
But it’s in the middle of the pack in terms of the percentage of the population born in-state, at 56.6 percent, Myers said. (Louisiana has the highest proportion, at 77.6 percent, while Nevada has the lowest, at 27.2 percent.)
So many voters might not consider it a deal-breaker if a candidate was born elsewhere. But Morgenthau’s Rhode Island roots might be too shallow to avoid criticism, Myers said.
He said the campaign finance reports indicate that Magaziner, Fox, Fung, and Lancia have in-state networks and are known among local donors.
The first-quarter reports show that Magaziner, who plans to move into the 2nd Congressional District from the 1st Congressional District, leads with $1.3 million in cash on hand, followed by Morgenthau with $504,537, Segal with $256,376, and Fox with $168,487.
Omar Bah, founder of the Refugee Dream Center, had $9,624 in unitemized contributions, and no reports were posted for Democratic candidates Michael Neary and Cameron Moquin.
Fung had $532,482 in cash on hand, while Lancia had $39,556.
This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.
Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.