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The floodgates have opened in the First Congressional District

As US Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island winds down his congressional tenure, the field of candidates who want to replace him continues to grow.HAIYUN JIANG/NYT

Now that House Speaker Joe Shekarchi and former CVS executive Helena Foulkes have announced that they won’t run for Congress when US Representative David Cicilline steps down later this year, the floodgates are beginning to open with potential candidates who suddenly see the race as winnable.

There are still a whole bunch of hopefuls who like having their names on these lists, but haven’t formally announced their candidacies.

Here’s a look at the seven candidates who have already said they are running (in alphabetical order).

Nicholas A. Autiello II

Former state Senate candidate

He finished a distant third in a Democratic primary when he ran for state Senate in 2018, but he has the political connections and fund-raising network to compete in a large field.


Nathan Biah

State representative (Providence)

His first two terms in the state Legislature have been unremarkable, but Biah has a great personal story (from fleeing Liberia to becoming a high school principal in Providence). He’s going to have to prove that he can raise enough money to increase his name recognition.

Sandra Cano

State senator (Pawtucket)

Cano has quietly but swiftly moved up the ranks in the Senate since she won her seat in a special election in 2018 (she now chairs the Education Committee), but like most of the other candidates in the race so far, she isn’t widely known throughout the district.

Stephen Casey

State representative (Woonsocket)

He has mostly kept a low profile in his six terms in the House, although he is chairman of the Municipal Government and Housing Committee. It has been a long time since he had a real opponent in any of his elections, but he could have the ability the corner the market on a lot of votes in part of the First District.

John Goncalves

Councilman (Providence)

It may sound like a huge leap for a councilman to run for Congress, but consider this: Goncalves has been the most prolific fund-raiser on the council since he burst on the scene in 2020, bringing in more than $190,000.


Sabina Matos

Lieutenant governor

Matos is the only person in the race right now with any district-wide name recognition at all, which makes her the early favorite.

Allen Waters

Frequent candidate

He lost to Cicilline by 28 percentage points as the Republican nominee for this seat last year, but is switching gears to run as a Democrat.

This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, links to interesting stories, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at Follow him @danmcgowan.