Rep. David Cicilline announced Tuesday that he will be stepping down from his seat in Congress on June 1. The reasoning for his retirement is that Cicilline will be the next president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation.
“Serving the people of Rhode Island’s First Congressional District has been the honor of my lifetime,” Cicilline said in a statement. “As President and CEO of one of the largest and oldest community foundations in the nation, I look forward to expanding on the work I have led for nearly thirty years in helping to improve the lives of all Rhode Islanders.”
Cicilline is in his seventh term representing Rhode Island’s First Congressional District, a seat he first won in 2010. The seat opened up after then-Congressman Patrick Kennedy opted to not seek reelection.
At the time, Cicilline was the 36th mayor of Providence, an office he was first elected to in 2002 and made history as the city’s first openly gay mayor. Cicilline’s time as mayor began after then-Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci was indicted following an FBI investigation known to many Rhode Islanders as “Operation Plunder Dome.” Cicilline won reelection in a landslide for his second term as mayor in 2006.
During his time in Congress a few years later, Cicilline was an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, co-sponsoring the 2022 Respect for Marriage Act, co-sponsoring a bill in 2011 to repeal the Defense for Marriage Act and first introducing the Equality Act in 2015, which passed the House four years later in 2019. Other issues Cicilline focused on in Congress included abortion rights, gun control and antitrust laws.
Cicilline was also a House impeachment manager for the second impeachment of then-President Donald Trump. He also recently introduced legislation that would prevent Trump from seeking federal office, saying that the former president, “very clearly engaged in an insurrection on January 6, 2021 with the intention of overturning the lawful and fair results of the 2020 election.”
As soon as Cicilline’s announcement was made political analysts went right to speculating who will run for this soon-to-be open seat.
The district itself encompasses the eastern side of Rhode Island, from Woonsocket all the way down to Newport and Little Compton. However, in Rhode Island the only residency requirement is to live in the state. In last year’s election, then-General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, who was living in the First Congressional District, ran for and won the race for Rhode Island’s Second Congressional District.
At the time of publication State Sen. Meghan Kallman (D-Dist. 15) announced on Twitter she is exploring a run for the seat. Former State Sen. and 2022 candidate for Lt. Gov. Cynthia Mendes also announced she is exploring a run.
Several top names have indicated they will not run for this seat or have no plans to, such as former Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, State Sen. Louis DiPalma (D-Dist. 12), State Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60) and Gov. Dan McKee.
A few current elected officials have signaled interest. One of those elected officials is Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera. “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,” Rivera said in a statement.
Two other mayors from municipalities in the district haven’t ruled out a run either: East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva and Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien.
Grebien said, “While I am extremely flattered that I have been approached multiple times about running for this Congressional seat, I have not made any decisions. Right now, I need to reflect and have conversations with my wife and family. I am keeping my options open however, my primary focus is my family and the residents of the City of Pawtucket who I am truly honored to serve. I will make my decision in time based on what is in their best interest.”
DaSilva hasn’t ruled it out, saying, “I will have to sit down with family, friends and supporters, but you know what they say - you never say never.”
Current House Speaker Joe Shekarchi hasn’t confirmed or denied if he will run, telling The Anchor in a statement, “Today is not the day for political speculation. I want to thank Congressman Cicilline for his many years of outstanding public service to the people of Rhode Island. David is a tireless worker and advocate, and I am confident he will lead the Rhode Island Foundation in the same strong manner as Neil Steinberg has done for many years.”
Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos is another elected official political analysts are speculating to be a possible candidate. A spokesperson for the lieutenant governor told The Anchor that Matos has not ruled it out.
This district leans more Democratic, with its last competitive election being in 2012 after the 2010 redistricting cycle. As for if the Rhode Island GOP will have a candidate read to run, Executive Director Jesus Solorio said, "Chairwoman Cienki has field dozens of calls so far from potential candidates. We have confidence a qualified candidate will step up to run.”
State law says a special election can’t be called by the governor until Cicilline officially resigns his seat. This means a date for an election won't be announced until June. Once that election is announced, political observers expect to see a very competitive Democratic primary similar to last year’s election for the Second Congressional District following Congressman Jim Langevin’s retirement.