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Everyone is exploring a run for the First Congressional District

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Raymond Baccari


Image via Ramaz Bluashvili/Pexels

Rep. David Cicilline’s announcement Tuesday that he’s stepping down from Congress to lead the Rhode Island Foundation did two things: Shock everyone and create a long list of possible candidates to run for the seat.

Dozens of elected officials, former office holders and candidates for office in past cycles have already joined the list of those exploring a run. Some names who haven’t officially said they’re exploring a run haven’t ruled out a campaign either, further fueling speculation amongst political analysts.

Shortly after Cicilline’s announcement, Mayor of Central Falls, Maria Rivera, put out a statement, saying in part, “Over the coming days, I will be speaking with my friends, family, and colleagues about my future and the need for Rhode Island to continue to have a strong, bold, Democratic voice in DC.”

Following Rivera’s statement, both a current and former state legislator announced they are exploring a run on Twitter. First was Sen. Meghan Kallman (D-Dist. 15) and then shortly after was former State Sen. and 2022 candidate for Lt. Gov. Cynthia Mendes.

Former Providence Ward 3 City Councilwoman and 2022 mayoral candidate, Nirva LaFortune released a statement explaining she’s exploring a run.

Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13) and Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8) both represent senate districts in the congressional district and are currently exploring a campaign as well.

In between those announcements came a number of current and former elected officials who said they won’t be running for the soon-to-be open seat. This list includes:

  • Former Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.

  • Former Providence Mayor Joseph Paolino Jr.

  • Former Providence Mayor Angel Taveras.

  • Sen. Louis DiPalma (D-Dist. 12).

  • Newport Mayor Xaykham “Xay” Khamsyvoravong.

  • State Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60).

  • Sen. Sam Bell (D-Dist. 5).

  • Sen. Valarie Lawson (D-Dist. 14).

  • State Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34).

  • Cumberland Mayor Jeffrey Mutter.

  • And 2014 gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell.

Paolino, the former Providence mayor is not running for the seat, but his son, Joseph Paolino III, is said to be exploring a run.

Later on during the day of Cicilline’s announcement and days afterward, more people have indicated they’re exploring the possibility. Providence Ward 1 City Councilman John Goncalves tweeted Wednesday he is exploring a run along with a campaign video. Then on Thursday, Stephanie Beauté tweeted out a statement that she’s also exploring a run for this seat.

Then there are several current and former elected officials that have not ruled out if they’ll run for the seat. That list includes House Speaker Joe Shekarchi, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva and more.

In Shekarchi’s case, more speculation has come about if he’ll run for the seat following the news he is holding a fundraiser on March 8 in Washington D.C.

Two additional names political analysts are closely watching: Former Secretary of State and 2022 gubernatorial candidate Nellie Gorbea and former CVS Executive and 2022 gubernatorial candidate Helena Foulkes.

Foulkes is currently looking at the option of running and will be moving to the East Side of Providence soon, which is in this district. Foulkes placed second in the Democratic primary for governor last year, which analysts argue could give her a leg up if she were to run.

Gorbea has not outright said if she’s exploring a run, but her name is mentioned due to her placing third place in last year’s Democratic primary for governor and statewide name recognition.

All the aforementioned names are Democrats, but two Republicans have joined in on the growing list of possible candidates. The first is Dana Traversie, who was the 2022 GOP nominee versus Shekarchi in House District 23. Traversie came up short versus the speaker, earning 40.1% of the vote.

The other Republican is Aaron Guckian, who was the 2022 GOP nominee vs Matos in the race for lieutenant governor.

“Over the past several days, I have been considering running for Rhode Island's 1st Congressional seat,” Guckian wrote in a series of tweets Wednesday. “I have been weighing my options, meeting with my team and speaking with numerous political advisors. I have had many productive conversations and will continue to give this opportunity more thought.”

Guckian came up short in his candidacy for lieutenant governor, earning 43.1% of the vote.

The last time this district elected a Republican was in 1992, which was then-Rep. Ronald Machtley who most recently was president of Bryant University.

Due to the partisan lean of this district, which went for President Joe Biden by 29 points in 2020, analysts are focusing more on the Democratic primary results.

Currently, only one candidate has filed the paperwork for a campaign: Allen Waters. Waters was originally running for U.S. Senate in 2024 as a Democrat. He was previously a Republican and ran as the GOP nominee versus Cicilline in 2022, earning 35.8% of the vote.

Cicilline is resigning from his seat on June 1, which means a special election can’t be called by Gov. Dan McKee until the summer. This timeline means that there are two options for a primary and general election date: An Aug. 8 primary election followed by an Oct. 3 general election or a Sept. 5 primary election followed by a Nov. 7 general election.



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