PROVIDENCE – Republican Allan Fung has jumped out to an eight-point lead over Democratic state Treasurer Seth Magaziner in the race for Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District, a new Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll found, once again confirming the GOP’s belief that it has a credible opportunity to pick up a seat in one of the bluest states in America.
Fung, a former mayor of Cranston who lost as the Republican nominee for governor in 2014 and 2018, leads Magaziner 45 percent to 37 percent among likely voters, with 5 percent going to Moderate Party candidate William Gilbert. Another 13 percent said they remain undecided.
The survey of 422 likely voters, released Tuesday, shows Fung holds strong leads among independents (57 percent to 21 percent) and men (55 percent to 30 percent) as he seeks to become the first Republican to win the 2nd District House seat since 1988. Current US Representative James Langevin, a Democrat, is retiring after 11 terms in the House.
“Seth Magaziner has a man problem because he’s trailing among men by 25 percentage points and only winning by nine among women,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.
Paleologos said the challenge Magaziner faces in attempting to win over more male voters is that men overwhelmingly consider cost of living the most important issue facing the state. Fung’s lead among those voters is 66 percent to 32 percent, the poll shows.
Magaziner leads among voters who identify abortion rights, housing, education, gun safety, and health care as the most important issue in Rhode Island, but Paleologos said “the whole race falls apart” for the Democrat when it comes to the economy.
“This isn’t an issues campaign,” Paleologos said. “If a wide array of issues were the determinant, Magaziner would be winning.”
The live caller cellphone and landline poll was conducted Oct. 1 to Oct. 4 by Suffolk University, and the margin of error among likely general election voters in the 2nd Congressional District was plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.
No Republican in Rhode Island has won any federal office since Lincoln Chafee won a full term in the US Senate in 2000 (he lost the seat in 2006 to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse).
But Fung, who positions himself as a moderate Republican akin to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, benefited from not having a competitive primary with a more conservative challenger, and has largely focused on the economy during his campaign.
Magaziner, who has won statewide office twice, all but ignored his Democratic primary opponents ahead of an easy victory in September, instead turning his attention to the role Fung could play in helping Republicans take back control of the US House of Representatives. Fung has already said he would support Representative Kevin McCarthy for speaker, and McCarthy visited Rhode Island in August.
The 2nd Congressional District includes most of the western and southern parts of Rhode Island, and its largest turnout areas are Cranston, Warwick, and part of Providence.
The district supported Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 13 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election, but Fung complicates the Democratic path to victory because he was a popular mayor of Cranston, a city that votes for Democrats in national races, but has had a Republican mayor for 18 out of the last 20 years.
The Globe/Suffolk poll also shows that Democratic Governor Dan McKee leads Republican Ashley Kalus 46 percent to 36 percent statewide, but the two are in a statistical tie in the 2nd Congressional District. McKee’s large lead in the 1st Congressional District is the difference in that race.
With a month to go until the general election, Paleologos said Fung has emerged as the favorite to win the race, but Magaziner could still close the gap with solid debate performances and by improving turnout in parts of the district where he expects to perform well.
While Paleologos acknowledged that Fung might have a ceiling in the race that means he won’t reach 50 percent support, he said Gilbert’s presence in the race likely means the winner might only need 48 percent or 49 percent.
“I think Fung would be more concerned if this was a two-person race,” Paleologos said.
Read more analysis of the latest poll data here.