Politics

Electability Is On The Ballot In Key Rhode Island House Primary

Thanks to the upcoming retirement of Rep. Jim Langevin (D), the closely Democratic state of Rhode Island may very well be the positioning of one of many nation’s hottest general-election battles in November.

Langevin has represented Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District, which encompasses the state’s extra conservative and rural western half, since 2001.

President Joe Biden carried the seat by 14 percentage points in 2020, however The Cook Political Report rated the race for the open seat a “toss up” in June.

The contest is predicted to be shut in no small half as a result of the presumptive Republican nominee to exchange Langevin is former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, a self-described moderate with a historical past of crossover enchantment.

Democrats in Rhode Island will resolve on Tuesday between six candidates to tackle Fung within the common election: Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner; former Langevin aide Joy Fox; former state Rep. David Segal; former Biden Cabinet official Sarah Morgenthau; refugee activist Omar Bah; and former state Rep. Spencer Dickinson.

Fung led all of his potential Democratic challengers in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, in keeping with a public poll performed in June shortly earlier than the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the constitutional proper to an abortion.

“Allan Fung is not Donald Trump,” stated Wendy Schiller, a political scientist at Brown University. “That’s the big challenge for Democrats to hold the seat. Can they convince voters that a vote for Allan Fung is a vote for [House Republican Leader] Kevin McCarthy and a vote for Donald Trump?”

With essentially the most money and endorsements, Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner (D) is the polling favourite in Tuesday’s Democratic major for an open congressional seat.

David Goldman/Associated Press

A Democratic Scion Who Switched Races

Magaziner, who boasts the widest array of endorsements and the biggest battle chest, is the polling favorite.

“Even with undecideds, he’s got enough people who are going to affirmatively try to choose him,” Schiller stated. “And increasingly in the last month, Democrats in that district have come to see him as the most competitive against Fung. Those Democrats are persuaded that this seat could give Republicans control of the House.”

Magaziner, who has overseen Rhode Island’s funds since 2014, has deep roots in Democratic politics ― each domestically and nationally. Magaziner’s father, Ira, a profitable administration guide, is finest identified for helming President Bill Clinton’s unsuccessful well being care reform initiative in 1993 and 1994. Magaziner credit his household’s wealth for enabling him to lend his first marketing campaign for treasurer greater than $800,000.

As treasurer, Magaziner endeared himself to Rhode Island’s labor unions together with his help for the creation of an infrastructure bank ― and to financial industry donors together with his pursuit of aggressive, nontraditional investments for the state’s pension fund. (Magaziner maintains that he was merely searching for the absolute best returns for retired state workers.)

Magaziner has additionally benefited from a head start on fundraising from an deserted bid for governor that he launched in September 2021. He determined in late January to run for Congress as an alternative, following Langevin’s announcement that he can be retiring.

Relieved to not have to decide on between Magaziner and Lt. Gov. Dan McKee within the gubernatorial race, prime Democrats, labor unions and different party-aligned teams rapidly coalesced behind Magaziner’s congressional bid. The League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund, an environmental tremendous PAC, has spent nearly $400,000 in help of Magaziner’s bid. And Magaziner stands to profit from the help of Langevin, who endorsed him in June.

“It’s time to stop the fighting and get to work.”

– Sarah Morgenthau, Democratic congressional candidate

Magaziner is working on a comparatively typical Democratic platform. In his TV adverts, he has emphasised his help for abortion rights and stricter gun laws, in addition to his dedication to defending Social Security and Medicare.

“I’m running for Congress because I want to make it easier for working people to get ahead and build a good, stable life,” he declared in a Sept. 1 debate.

There are indicators, nevertheless, that Magaziner would resemble extra business-friendly members of the House Democratic Caucus, although not fairly to the extent of the get together’s most conservative outliers. While he has picked up the endorsement of progressive Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, he’s additionally been endorsed by Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), a outstanding reasonable.

Although Magaziner is refusing to just accept contributions from political motion committees affiliated with the gun, fossil gas, and pharmaceutical industries, he has not forsworn money from all company PACs. And Web3 Forward, a brilliant PAC that advocates for lighter regulation of the cryptocurrency business, has spent over $162,000 on ads supporting Magaziner.

Magaziner has additionally distinguished himself from his rivals by criticizing Biden’s forgiveness of $10,000 in scholar debt for Americans incomes beneath $125,000. He has stated he prefers to cut back rates of interest on loans, however advised HuffPost in an interview that he wouldn’t vote towards Biden’s debt cancellation if it have been put to a vote in Congress and it was the one actual reform on the desk.

“What I’m very concerned about as well is that we fix the underlying structural issues about how higher education is financed, so we don’t end up in the same situation five years from now,” he stated.

Joy Fox, left, a former aide to Rep. Jim Langevin, and former state Rep. David Segal, who founded a progressive group, are among the Democratic primary's underdog candidates.
Joy Fox, left, a former aide to Rep. Jim Langevin, and former state Rep. David Segal, who based a progressive group, are among the many Democratic major’s underdog candidates.

Candidate Campaigns/Facebook

Alternative Theories Of Electability

Other contenders have made the case that they’re extra electable towards Fung than Magaziner can be. And within the occasion of an upset loss for Magaziner, Democrats will get an opportunity to check different theories of electability in a state the place Democratic congressional candidates are much less accustomed to contentious common elections.

Sarah Morgenthau, a former Department of Commerce official beneath Biden and Department of Homeland Security official beneath President Barack Obama, has raised the second-largest quantity of money after Magaziner. They are the one two candidates who’ve been capable of promote on tv.

Morgenthau, whose mom unsuccessfully sought the seat in 1988, is working greater than something on her id as a lady and the opportunity of changing into the primary Democratic girl to signify Rhode Island in Congress. One of her TV adverts options the lyrics “Roe, Roe, Roe, your vote” ― a reference to the overturned Roe v. Wade resolution that created a constitutional proper to abortion ― to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

“It’s time to stop the fighting and get to work,” she advised HuffPost. “That’s what I’ve been about throughout my life and throughout my career.”

Morgenthau stated she is the candidate finest geared up to beat Fung as a result of, amongst different issues, she is “coming in with a heck of a lot of experience.”

But Morgenthau, a granddaughter of the New Deal-era Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, has appreciable baggage. She owns a summer season dwelling in Rhode Island, however solely made the state her permanent home lately in an effort to run for Congress.

“Rhode Island has been my home for 40 years,” Morgenthau insisted throughout a latest televised Democratic major debate, noting her mom’s run for Congress within the space over three a long time in the past. “While my heart is here in Rhode Island, my experience has been everywhere ― and it’s exactly that experience that I will bring to bring back results for folks here in Rhode Island.”

Magaziner has a much less hanging residency downside of his personal, having moved into the district from his former dwelling on the east facet of Providence in an effort to run in Rhode Island’s 2nd.

Magaziner stated that his work as treasurer, which included college building and clean-energy financing plans, have put him in contact with the district’s wants.

“I will put my hometown girl against his hometown boy all day long.”

– Joy Fox, Democratic congressional candidate

“I’ve worked in every city and town in the district to solve problems,” he advised HuffPost.

By distinction, Fox ― a political guide and former native journalist who additionally labored for former Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), now the U.S. secretary of commerce ― touts her native ties. A resident of Warwick, Fox jokes that she doesn’t commute a lot past her household dwelling in Cranston, the place she and her mom are caring for a father with Alzheimer’s illness.

“I grew up in the city [Fung] was mayor of,” Fox stated. “I will put my hometown girl against his hometown boy all day long.”

Fox additionally famous that she was a part of the marketing campaign staff that helped Raimondo defeat Fung in two consecutive gubernatorial races.

The problem for Fox is in letting sufficient Democratic voters know she exists, regardless of her small price range ― and convincing them she’ll be capable to scale up in a aggressive race come November.

“You could envision Joy Fox beating Allan Fung with money, because Joy Fox can use the national theme [of beating Republicans] and also claim the mantle of a local Rhode Islander who was born and raised here,” Schiller stated.

Omar Bah, a political refugee from Gambia who based a nonprofit that serves refugees in Providence, is a long-shot candidate who had raised less than $63,000 as of late August.

But he too has an electability case to make, arguing {that a} failure to appoint him dangers ceding a portion of nonwhite voters to Fung, with whom they could determine as a result of he has Chinese ancestry.

“If Allan Fung goes against Seth Magaziner or any other white candidate, he will take a large chunk of people of color from the Democratic Party who otherwise would have voted for me,” Bah advised HuffPost.

Langevin's impending retirement in Rhode Island's 2nd District has raised fears of a GOP takeover. He has endorsed Magaziner over Fox, his former aide.
Langevin’s impending retirement in Rhode Island’s 2nd District has raised fears of a GOP takeover. He has endorsed Magaziner over Fox, his former aide.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

A Case For Progressive Populism

The coverage variations between Magaziner, Fox, Morgenthau and Bah are comparatively modest ― and never a serious focus of their respective bids.

Dickinson and Segal, against this, are making an ideological case, albeit from reverse ends of the spectrum. Dickinson argues that the Democratic Party has moved a lot too far to the left, prompting centrist and conservative voters to depart the get together.

Dickinson has sparse coverage materials on his campaign website, however he does title “closing” the U.S.-Mexico border as his highest precedence.

“If the President won’t do it, then the Congress must,” he declares. “Use the Army if necessary.”

Segal, who based the advocacy group Demand Progress and is backed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), has carved out the progressive lane within the race, working as a foe of “corporate special interests and political corruption.” Segal’s platform consists of the usual array of left-wing insurance policies, together with help for Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

But Segal additionally emphasizes his document of constructing bipartisan coalitions for liberal objectives like decreasing the facility of huge technology corporations and ending U.S. help for the Saudi Arabia-led invasion of Yemen. And he insists that with no populist critique of a rigged financial and political system, Democrats are at a drawback towards Fung.

“The general election here needs to be taken really seriously,” Segal stated. “The way to do that is to nominate somebody who has a 20-year record of taking on outsize corporate power. This is a really popular fight.”

Rhode Island has a historical past of electing Democrats with socially conservative tendencies. Until lately, many prime Democrats within the state legislature supported gun rights and restrictions on abortion entry.

Segal nonetheless hopes to enchantment to the state’s sizable inhabitants of working-class voters, a few of whom have proven a receptiveness to a populist message. The state’s Democratic major voters opted for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton throughout the 2016 presidential primary. Some of Sanders’ greatest margins have been in Warwick and Cranston, key inhabitants facilities in Rhode Island’s 2nd. Sanders endorsed Segal final Thursday.

“The way to do that is to nominate somebody who has a 20-year record of taking on outsize corporate power. This is a really popular fight.”

– David Segal, Democratic congressional candidate

What Segal lacks in TV promoting, he might make up for in grassroots help, which carries better weight in low-turnout races. Segal’s marketing campaign launched an internal poll earlier this month that confirmed him gaining floor on Magaziner. And the Working Families Party has since spent more than $87,000 on paid telephone banking and digital adverts in help of Segal’s bid.

Finally, the mysterious tremendous PAC Ocean State Forward has emerged as a wild card with a last-minute spending spree within the race’s remaining days. The group, whose funders and agenda are unknown, has spent more than $102,000 on direct-mail literature attacking Magaziner.

“Seth Magaziner claims to be a progressive Democrat who fights for working families, but he has taken more special interest campaign cash than any candidate for Congress,” one mail merchandise alleges.

Ocean State Forward is run by Democratic political operative Jennifer May. But the assault mirrors the critiques of Magaziner that nationwide Republicans have already made.

“Allan Fung led the Cranston comeback and has proven that one-party rule is hurting Rhode Islanders whose cost of living has surged with Democrats in control,” Samantha Bullock, a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, stated in an announcement. “There couldn’t be a greater contrast between Fung and Silver Spoon Seth Magaziner, whose political career is bankrolled by his rich dad while he works to deliver for his Wall Street friends.”

Regardless of the race’s consequence on Tuesday, nationwide Democrats are making ready to nationalize the overall election and paint Fung as a foot soldier for Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Fung gave the get together some ammunition when he welcomed McCarthy in particular person to lift money for him in Rhode Island in August. He additionally attended McCarthy’s nationwide GOP donor retreat in Wyoming later within the month.

Fung, who opposes late-term abortions and public funding for abortions, has stated that proscribing abortion wouldn’t be a precedence for him in Congress. “In Rhode Island, they’ve already spoken about this issue,” Fung told The Boston Globe, referring to the state’s codification of abortion rights in 2019. “And I’m not running to try to change the laws on abortion.”

But Fung wouldn’t decide to supporting federal laws codifying abortion rights, which Democrats see as grounds sufficient to model him an abortion rights opponent.

“Fung is an anti-abortion empty suit who would be a rubber stamp for Kevin McCarthy’s dangerous agenda to cut Social Security, do Donald Trump’s bidding, and ban abortion nationwide,” James Singer, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, advised HuffPost in an announcement.

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