PROVIDENCE — US Representative-elect Seth Magaziner on Thursday named several key members to his staff and talked about the priorities he will pursue in representing Rhode Island’s Second Congressional District.
Magaziner, the Democratic state treasurer, said he plans to prioritize lowering energy costs and prescription drug costs while working to protect Social Security and abortion rights — issues he emphasized during the campaign. For example, he plans to sign onto legislation that would “redirect excess oil company profits to the pockets of consumers” and a bill that would “expand the ability of Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies,” he said.
But Magaziner will be operating as part of the minority party now that Republicans have regained the House majority.
“I am hopeful we will still be able to get things done to advance the issues Rhode Islanders care about, but it depends on the Republican leadership,” Magaziner said. “If Republicans are going to spend the next two years pursuing issues like Hunter Biden’s laptop, then I think they will regret it because the American people will make them pay for it in the next election. The American people want us to lower costs, protect rights, and not play to the most extreme elements.”
On Nov. 8, Magaziner beat Republican Allan W. Fung, a former Cranston mayor, in a race that drew national attention after Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin announced he would not seek re-election after 22 years in office. Magaziner received 50.4 percent of the vote, while Fung received 46.7 percent and Moderate Party candidate William H. Gilbert received 2.7 percent.
During the campaign, Magaziner frequently warned that the first action Fung would take in Congress would be to vote for Representative Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, to be House speaker. Now, he said his first action in Congress will likely be voting against McCarthy as House speaker.
McCarthy lobbied President Biden to roll back the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the US military, and that mandate would be rescinded under the annual defense bill that passed the House on Thursday.
“We are at the point now where we likely do not need a COVID vaccine mandate in the military,” Magaziner said. “It’s no longer a national security threat.” But he said he has concerns about reinstating members of the military who were dismissed for refusing to get the vaccine. He said that could set “a problematic precedent” of allowing soldiers to ignore orders from superior officers.
Magaziner spoke to the Globe on Thursday after the House had given final approval to legislation protecting same-sex marriages. Biden is expected to promptly sign the measure, which requires all states to recognize any union that is valid in the state in which it was performed.
“It is exciting to finally see same-sex marriage protected in federal law,” Magaziner said, noting that he was part of the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island in 2013. “I’m glad to see Congress taking action in bipartisan ways.”
But he said the legislation’s passage comes “against a backdrop that we have had a Supreme Court looking to turn back the clock on a number of fundamental rights” — including abortion rights and “a larger rollback on the right to privacy.” He said Congress must now step up to protect those rights.
Magaziner won the election despite trailing in every public poll, including a Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll released Oct. 11 that showed Fung leading by 8 percentage points.
Magaziner said he was able to close the gap for two reasons: “We had very strong ground game and get-out-the-vote operation,” he said, giving credit to campaign manager Katie Nee Zambrano and others. Also, he said, “Republican leaders got overconfident and started talking freely about what their plans were if they took control of Congress, and Rhode Island voters didn’t like what that agenda was.”
For example, he said voters disliked proposed changes to Social Security and Medicare and a bill for a national abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
As he prepares to be sworn in on Jan. 3, Magaziner said he has been told that children under age 12 will be allowed on the House floor for the ceremony. So he is planning to take along his 13-month-old son, Max — “if he behaves,” he said. “It will be a game-time decision.”
Magaziner announced four members of his leadership team:
Christa Thompson will serve as Magaziner’s district director. She is the chair of the East Greenwich Democratic Committee and has been a teacher in the Warwick public schools for the past 19 years. She now teaches English at Tollgate High School. She serves as co-chair of legislative affairs for I AM ALS, a patient-centered organization dedicated to providing support to patients and putting an end to the disease. A graduate of Simmons College, she earned her teaching certification from Rhode Island College.
Julio Paz will serve as director of constituent services, the same role he has held in Langevin’s office. He has worked with Langevin since 2014, rising through the office ranks. A resident of Johnston, he is a graduate of the Hanley Career and Technical School at Central High School in Providence. Before joining Langevin’s staff, he worked at Crossroads Rhode Island and the United Way of Rhode Island.
Clay Schroers will serve as Magaziner’s chief of staff and will be based in Washington, D.C. He is now chief of staff to US Representative Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat, where he’s helped shepherd through major legislation including the bipartisan Invest to Protect Act. Before his time on Capitol Hill, he served as national campaigns director for the League of Conservation Voters. He is native of Hawaii and a graduate of Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California.
Jess Vaughn will serve as deputy chief of staff and will also be based in Washington, D.C. She is vice president at Angerholzer Broz Consulting in Washington, D.C., where she advises members of Congress on political strategy, and also worked on the campaign of former US Senator Doug Jones, an Alabama Democrat. A native of Alabama and graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she started her career at the Human Rights Campaign.
“I’m honored that these smart, talented and principled individuals will join our team when we take office in service of the people of Rhode Island on January 3,” Magaziner said. “Christa, Julio, Clay, and Jess each share my commitment to fighting for working people and providing exceptional service to our constituents.”
He said he plans to announce more staff members in the coming weeks.