August 12, 2022

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House GOP leader faces Democratic challenge

Providence Journal campaign coverage for the 2022 election cycle

Providence Journal campaign coverage for the 2022 election cycle

Here is the latest news in the highest-profile 2022 races in Rhode Island, from governor to Congress to mayor of Providence and beyond.


House GOP leader faces Democratic challenge

Block Island Republican Rep. Blake Fillippi, the House minority leader, is facing his first challenger since he won his seat in 2014.

On Friday, Tina Spears, executive director of the Community Provider Network of Rhode Island, announced her intent to run as a Democrat in House District 36, which spreads across Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown and Westerly.

A resident of Charlestown, Spears has “dedicated her professional career to advancing the rights of Rhode Islanders with disabilities,” and hopes to bring that expertise – and personal experience – to the State House, according to a news release announcing her candidacy.

Elaborating, she said: her son, Taquonck, “suffered a birth injury and had significant disabilities as a result.”

She said she and her husband “learned to navigate the difficult landscape needed to support a child with developmental disabilities,” and that she became a skilled and successful advocate as a result.

Fillippi leads the 10-member Republican bloc in the House. He has run without primary or general election opposition since 2014 when as an independent he challenged and defeated Democratic incumbent Donna Walsh.

Asked to distinguish herself from Filippi, Spears on Friday told The Journal: “This is a coastal district. … I support the Act on Climate, and our district supports policies that protect the environment. Rep. Filippi voted against this important environmental and jobs bill.”

“My children go to public schools. I support strong public schools,” she added. “Rep. Filippi is proposing a voucher system that has the potential to undermine public school funding. … I support an increase in minimum wage, he voted against this, twice.”

GOP’s de la Cruz to kick off her Congressional campaign

Republican state Sen. Jessica de la Cruz will officially kickoff her campaign for Rhode Island’s Second District Congressional seat Wednesday at 39 West Restaurant & Lounge in Cranston.

“Everyone I talk to agrees that Congress has enough millionaires and career politicians,” she said in media advisory about the event.

“It’s time for a working mom who understands what families are facing. Higher gas prices, inflation, shortages at the grocery store, and rising crime rates: these problems that normal people feel but the rich and powerful can insulate themselves from. That’s why the 2nd district needs real representation in Congress.”

Jessica de la Cruz (R) Burrillville, Glocester, North Smithfield

Jessica de la Cruz (R) Burrillville, Glocester, North Smithfield

The North Smithfield senator, who does not at this time live in the Second Congressional District, is one of three Republicans who have filed the necessary paperwork to begin fundraising for the campaign.

The others are former Cranston Mayor and two-time candidate for governor Allan Fung and former state Rep. Robert Lancia, who is running for the seat a second time. (Lancia garnered 41.5% of the vote in 2020 against incumbent U.S. Rep. James Langevin, who is not seeking reelection this year.)

On the Democratic side there are seven announced candidates so far. They include: Omar Bah, Edwin Pacheco, Seth Magaziner, Joy Fox, Cameron Moquin, Michael Neary, and the most recent entry, Sarah Morgenthau. Others, including former state Rep. David Segal, ho have indicated they may jump in.


McKee gets construction unions, Laborers’ endorsement

A coalition of construction unions and the powerful Laborers’ International union threw their support behind Gov. Dan McKee’s reelection bid Thursday, his first significant endorsement from organized labor.

The Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council represents 17 unions with around 10,000 workers. The Rhode Island Laborers’ District Council represents around 12,000 workers.

Gov. Dan McKee speaks about road and bridge construction last spring.

Gov. Dan McKee speaks about road and bridge construction last spring.

”Gov. McKee has demonstrated the intellect, character and shared vision to revitalize and reinvigorate our state toward socio-economic recovery, sustainability and vitality for all,” Armand Sabitoni, LIUNA general secretary-treasurer and New England regional manager, said in a news release announcing the endorsement. “He will continue to roll up his sleeves and get the job done for Rhode Island.”

Both groups wield significant political clout at the State House and were key parts of former Gov. Gina Raimondo’s electoral base.

McKee was elevated to governor from lieutenant governor when Raimondo resigned to become U.S. commerce secretary.

“We know he will keep our members working by continuing to invest in our schools, roads, bridges, green energy initiatives, and affordable housing,” Scott Duhamel, secretary-treasurer of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council, said in the release.


Gorbea calls for ‘pause’ on R.I. gas tax

Secretary of State and candidate for governor Nellie Gorbea wants Rhode Island to “pause” collecting taxes on gasoline because of rising fuel prices caused by the invasion of Ukraine.

“Now is the time for leadership that stands up to hostile forces like Russia, while still ensuring economic security for Ocean State families,” Gorbea said in a campaign news release. “The Governor should pause the gas tax to provide immediate relief to the many Rhode Islanders facing higher prices at the pump right now.”

The Russian assault on Ukraine has sent gas prices soaring around the globe. On Monday AAA Northeast reported that the average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Rhode Island had risen to a record $4.24.

Calls to cut or suspend gas taxes across the country first came from Republicans.

In Rhode Island, congressional candidate and state Sen. Jessica de la Cruz, R-North Smithfield, proposed a bill that would halt collections of the state’s 34-cents-per-gallon gas tax for the rest of this year.

But with a hotly contested gubernatorial primary this year, Democrats are being drawn to the issue.

Democratic General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, who is also running for Congress, on Tuesday called for a suspension of the federal gas tax.

In her news release, Gorbea didn’t say how long the gas tax “pause” should be, under what conditions she would bring it back or how she would offset the lost revenue.

Last year Rhode Island collected around $140 million in gas tax, according to a Department of Revenue report.

The gas tax is used to pay for state transportation projects. A portion of each cent collected goes to the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.

Gov. Dan McKee’s campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment on his thoughts about a gas tax suspension.

Democratic candidate for governor Luis Daniel Muñoz said this is an “opportune time” for a gas tax suspension and that he supports even “bolder tangible property tax reductions/exemptions and supplemental wage programs to support working families and micro-businesses.”


Foulkes calls for $1 billion in additional school spending

Gubernatorial candidate Helena Foulkes believes that Rhode Island should funnel at least $1 billion more to the state’s public schools to fix long-standing problems, including what she calls “COVID learning loss.”

In a candidate forum a week ago, the former top CVS executive signaled her belief that Rhode Island needs to invest big in public school education.

On Tuesday, she identified the problem: “Our public schools were struggling before COVID, but the challenges of the last two years have pushed them into a full-blown crisis.

“Last year, only 33% of Rhode Island public school students were meeting grade-level expectations in reading. Our results in math are even more alarming – only 20% of Rhode Island students are meeting grade-level standards in math.”

“You shouldn’t have to be lucky or wealthy to get a great education in Rhode Island, but for decades, we’ve failed to provide our public schools with the resources and support they need to be successful,” she said.

With the big teacher union endorsements up for grabs, she said: “Our public school teachers are heroes. They showed up every day during this pandemic to give our students the best education possible.

“But we haven’t supported our teachers or our students the way they deserve. Let’s change that.”

Rhode Island is expected to spend $1.7 billion in state and federal dollars on elementary and secondary education this year.

That includes nearly $1.4 billion in direct aid to local school districts, plus nearly $57 million for Central Falls.

Foulkes’ plan: use nearly $500 million of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act allotment “on proven strategies,” such as “expanding summer learning opportunities, making sure every student in the state has access to before- and after-school learning, offering small-group tutoring for those who need the most support, and adding teaching assistants to every K-3 classroom.”

If elected, she said, she would “invest an additional $300M in public education through the state budget” to fully fund universal prekindergarten and create a “new state program to provide public preschool” for 3-year-olds.

She said she would also propose changes to the state funding formula to “finally provide enough resources for special education and multilingual learning,” dedicate state funding for dual language and community school models and provide additional financial support for teachers to get certified in multiple language learning.

She also endorsed current state Treasurer and Congressional candidate Seth Magaziner’s push for $300 million in additional state borrowing for school construction so that “our kids can attend schools that are safe, warm, dry and equipped for 21st-century learning. “

Asked where Foulkes’ children went to school, spokeswoman Audrey Lucas told The Journal: “They are all graduated now but attended the [private] Gordon School and Wheeler.”

Asked why she chose to send her own children to private, rather than public schools in Rhode Island, Foulkes emailed this response:

“Like many parents, my husband and I sent our kids to the best schools we could. We were incredibly privileged to be able to afford private school tuition. But most parents in our state don’t have that luxury – and they shouldn’t have to.

“You should not have to be wealthy or lucky or live in a certain zip code to give your kids a great education,” she repeated. “That’s why I’m calling for an unprecedented $1-billion investment in our public schools to support critical interventions to make up COVID learning loss and support our kids in every single community in our state.”

Foulkes faces four competitors for the Democratic nod to run for governor, including the incumbent, Dan McKee, and term-limited Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

When asked in 2019, Gorbea, who lives in North Kingstown, explained through a spokesman why she chose to send her three daughters to the private Lincoln School in Providence.

Her then-spokesman Nick Domings said: “The Lincoln School offers them an all-girl environment rooted in Quaker values. The Secretary and her husband value the opportunities and challenges of the school’s all-female education, and its location is near the Secretary’s office in Providence.”

Then-Lieutenant Governor McKee told The Journal that he and his wife, Susan, have a son and daughter, who both attended Cumberland public schools from kindergarten through grade 12.

On Tuesday, gubernatorial candidate and former Secretary of State Matt Brown told The Journal that daughter Ella went to Horace Mann Elementary School in Washington D.C, which is public, and then the private Moses Brown School for 1st grade through 3rd grade when the family moved back to Providence, and then the Lincoln School where she is now in 10th grade.

Their son Walker went to Moses Brown iitially, then the French American Scool of Rhode Iland, and then after a year of homeschooling, he went to the Community Preparatory School where he is now in 8th grade..


Magaziner wants to divest from Russia

How much of Rhode Island’s $10.1-billion pension fund is invested in Russia?

Somewhere between $20 million and $30 million, or 0.3%, according to General Treasurer and congressional candidate Seth Magaziner, who wants to liquidate it to punish Russia for invading Ukraine.

“What [Russian President] Putin is doing in Ukraine is an affront to the values of Rhode Islanders,” Magaziner said Monday. “We do not want to have any role in supporting what Putin is doing. We want to put whatever pressure we can to stop this illegal war.”

Since the invasion late last week and subsequent rounds of international sanctions, the Treasury has been reviewing its portfolio and found two index funds with Russian exposure, Magaziner said.

One is an emerging market fund for stocks, managed by State Street, which includes publicly traded companies and possibly some with state ownership.

The other is an emerging markets bond fund managed by Wellington Management. These investments include Russian corporate bonds, and may also include government bonds, Magaziner said.

Rhode Island’s pension investments are overseen by the State Investment Commission, which the treasurer chairs, and Magaziner is planning to hold an emergency meeting of the commission to approve the divestment later this week.

Getting out of up to $30 million in Russia investments may come with a cost, but Magaziner said it is too soon to know what it might be.

The index funds could decide to drop their Russian investments altogether. Or they might set up a custom index for Rhode Island, he said.

“I am hopeful that if we can be a thought leader and pull other larger states along, than it can have some impact collectively,” Magaziner said when asked if the move was primarily symbolic. “Broadly speaking, financial markets work best in the context of democracy, peace and the rule of law.

The Rhode Island pension system has a rule against investments in Iran or Sudan that predates Magaziner’s tenure as treasurer.

R.I. AFL-CIO endorses Magaziner for Congress

The leadership of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO has bestowed an early endorsement on state Treasurer Seth Magaziner in the crowded race for Rhode Island’s Second Congressional District seat.

“Treasurer Magaziner is the type of leader Rhode Island needs in Congress,” said George Nee, president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, in a statement Monday. (Nee’s daughter Katie Nee manages Magaziner’s campaign.)

Nee credited Magaziner’s efforts, as chairman of the state’s school building task force, with helping to “launch a transformation of Rhode Island’s school infrastructure, ensuring that all students have safe, warm, and dry places to learn all while creating 28,000 construction related jobs.”

And passage of the proposed $300-million bond that Magaziner is promoting will create more construction jobs, while helping to “meet the goals of the Act on Climate.”

The endorsement is the latest, and most significant, in a series of union endorsements for the term-limited state treasurer.

Magaziner is one of seven Democrats who have declared their candidacies for the seat now held by long-time U.S. Rep. James Langevin, who is not seeking reelection. The number will grow to eight, or more, if others contemplating a run take the plunge.

The AFL-CIO, which represents a reported 80,000 workers across the state, also endorsed First District Congressman David Cicilline for reelection.

“Congressman Cicilline continues to be a strong voice for union members in Congress, advocating for crucial pieces of legislation like the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, the Raise the Wage Act, and the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act,” said Patrick Crowley, secretary-treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO.


David Segal explores CD2 run

Former state representative David Segal is the latest Democrat to consider running to replace Jim Langevin in Congress.

Segal, who lost to U.S. Rep. David Cicilline in the 2010 Democratic primary in the First Congressional District, said on Wednesday he has opened an account with the Federal Elections Commission so he can raise money while deciding whether to run.

“People expect that government should be able to do more for us and they are right,” Segal wrote to the Journal. “This is a moment when people are understandably anxious and frustrated and think they need stronger allies in elected leadership. They expect that we should be able to build coalitions to make progress in ways that help working people in all of our communities, and that’s what I’ve been doing my whole career, including as a local and state elected official.”

After his unsuccessful 2010 run, Segal co-founded Demand Progress, a progressive advocacy group with a focus on Internet issues.

Before being elected to the state House of Representatives, Segal spent four years on the Providence City Council.

If he decides to enter the race, Segal would join at least six Democrats who have said they plan to run: Omar Bah, Edwin Pacheco, Seth Magaziner, Joy Fox, Cameron Moquin and Michael Neary.


State treasurer faces call to examine pension fund management

As a state treasurer running for Congress, Seth Magaziner has no objection to the study several lawmakers are seeking to identify pension fund investments in defense contractors who manufacture weapons for the military.

“Treasurer Magaziner supports transparency as to where the state’s money is invested, and therefore has no objection to this bill,” a spokesman said.

But his support, as the chairman of the state’s investment commission, stops there.

“The bill does not call for the pension fund to end its investments in defense related industries, nor would the Treasurer support such a policy,” a spokesman for Magaziner said Tuesday.

Why? “My obligation as Treasurer is to produce strong returns for the 60,000 teachers, first responders, nurses and other public servants who depend on the pension system for retirement security, and I do not believe that assisting the United States armed forces in the defense of our country should disqualify a company from investment,” Magaziner said.

He was responding to Journal questions about a press release issued Tuesday, by a group calling itself Just Peace RI, to draw attention to legislation (H 7482) introduced last week by Rep. David Morales and at least nine House colleagues.

“The way to peace is not through more weapons,” Morales was quoted as saying.

“The United States must lead the way toward a safer world, and in Rhode Island we can do our part by passing a resolution urging our federal government to sign the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, while also passing legislation to learn if our state pension funds are supporting the development of military arms,” he said.

The legislation is aimed at “arms producing companies, defense contractors or military industries that primarily produce, maintain and store weapons for the armed forces…[including] guns, ammunition, missiles, military aircraft, military vehicles, and military ships.”

A 2021 version of the bill, which did not pass, would have required the state to divest any holdings in military weapons manufacturers within 14 months.

Magaziner has not spelled out why he opposes such a move, but his spokesman, Ben Smith, noted: the State Investment Commission, in 2018, “accepted Treasurer Magaziner’s recommendation that the pension system no longer invest in companies that manufacture assault-style weapons for civilian use.

“The policy does not extend to companies that manufacture arms and equipment for the United States military.” (It is unclear if the R.I. pension fund has any such holdings.)


Michael Neary, a CVS Health analyst, kicks off campaign

WARWICK — Michael Neary, a CVS Health analyst who campaigned for Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the 2016 presidential campaign, officially kicked off his bid to replace Jim Langevin in Congress on Saturday.

In a ballroom at the Crowne Plaza, Neary, a Rhode Island native in the process of moving back to Coventry from Ohio, told 16 supporters that the urgency of the moment compelled him to run.

“If no one is willing to step up and fight for the bold plans that I believe in, then I am going to be out here every single day fighting those ideas on behalf of all Rhode Islanders,” he said.

Asked why he thinks Democratic primary voters will embrace a candidate with a history in Republican politics, Neary said the state’s voters are independent-minded with a majority unaffiliated and able to cast a ballot in the state’s open primaries.

“Like so many other Rhode Islanders, I am an independent thinker. I don’t just check a box one way or the other,” he told The Journal. “I’ve got my own ideas and am standing on my own two feet here. No one from either side got me into this race.”

After graduating from college, Neary, 28, moved to New Hampshire to work for New Day for America, a pro-Kasich super-PAC.

After Kasich lost the GOP presidential nomination to Donald Trump, Neary was hired as an executive assistance to Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. (Unlike Rhode Island, Ohio’s governor and lieutenant governor run as a ticket.)

Taylor ran for governor in 2018, a campaign Neary worked on, according to his LinkedIn profile, and lost the Republican primary to Mike DeWine.


Treas. Magaziner picks up another construction union endorsement for Congressional bid

A second construction trade union has endorsed state Treasurer Seth Magaziner’s bid for Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District seat.

On Friday, on the day after Magaziner reaffirmed his support for an additional $300 million in borrowing to fix or build new school buildings across the state, his campaign announced the endorsement of Carpenters Local 330.

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“Seth has put our people to work on construction projects all over the state and he understands that carpenters and other tradesmen deserve good wages and safe working conditions,” said President for Carpenters Local 330 Michael Holmes in a statement issued by the Magaziner campaign.

Earlier in the week, Magaziner, who as treasurer chaired a School Buildings Task Force promoted the spending of $1.7 billion on school repairs and construction, announced the endorsement of Ironworkers Local 37.

Bolstering his image as a union-backed candidate in the crowded Democratic race for the seat U.S. Rep. James Langevin is leaving after his current term ends, Magaziner also announced an endorsement by Unite Here Local 26, representing workers in across school cafeterias, hotels, the Rhode Island T.F. Green Airport, and Bally’s.


Governor McKee to announce election bid

On Tuesday, Gov. Dan McKee will officially announce that he is running to keep the job to which he ascended when then-Gov. Gina Raimondo left last March for a post in the Biden administration.

McKee campaign manager Brexton Isaacs told The Journal that details of the Feb. 22 announcement are still coming together, but the timing seemed right.

Gov. Dan McKee will officially kick off his election campaign on Feb. 22.

Gov. Dan McKee will officially kick off his election campaign on Feb. 22.

The governor had initially planned to announce his candidacy in late January, after delivering his state of the state address and proposed budget to legislators. Isaacs said he decided to hold off and stay “very focused on governing” – and making sure “school were staying open, small businesses were being supported” at a time when COVID cases were spiking.

“Governing comes first and politics comes later and so he spent January very focused on the COVID spike,” Isaccs said.

Democrat McKee, who was lieutenant governor before his midterm elevation to the top job, faces four challengers within his own party: Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, former Secretary of State Matt Brown, former CVS executive Helena Foulkes and Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz.

Congressional candidate Magaziner wins union backing

State Treasurer Seth Magaziner has picked up his first union endorsement in his run for Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District seat.

Magaziner, who as treasurer chaired a School Buildings Task Force and promoted the spending of $1.7 billion on school repairs and construction, announced the endorsement of Ironworkers Local 37.

Seth Magaziner announces his run for Congress at the Hall Library on Jan 26, 2022.

Seth Magaziner announces his run for Congress at the Hall Library on Jan 26, 2022.

“Seth’s school construction initiative has put Ironworkers to work around the state as we proudly build and renovate the schools our own children and our neighbors attend,” said Ironworkers Local 37 Business Manager David Langlais, in a statement made public by Magaziner’s campaign.

.”We know he will fight in Washington for working families and we enthusiastically support him,” Langlais said.

The Ironworkers Local 37 gave Magaziner his first union endorsement in his bid for General Treasurer in 2014.


Providence cop says he’s running for lieutenant governor

Providence police officer Jeann Lugo, quietly and without any fanfare, filed paperwork with the Rhode Island Board of Elections in mid-December to mount a Republican run for the state’s No. 2 job.

Lugo also created a website – – in which he describes himself as: “a Hispanic migrant from Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico” who moved to the Valley area of Providence in 1992 with his mother and two brothers.

His backstory: “In the summer of 2000, a domestic incident resulted in the separation of his family by the Providence Police Department/ Social Services. At age 13, Jeann was placed into the custody of DCYF. Jeann remained in foster care until he reached adulthood.”

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After taking college courses at the Community College of Rhode Island, he says, he worked for a security firm for 15 years in Greater Boston, and in June 2019, he graduated from the 69th Providence Police Academy.

Lugo, who lives in Warwick, plans a formal announcement later.

According to Providence Police Commissioner Steven Paré, Lugo is a uniformed patrolman who works the 3 to 11 p.m. shift on the East Side. While other city police officers have run for office, such as a legislative seat, Paré said he was unaware of any who have run for state level office.

There are no prohibitions on doing so as long as there is no campaign activity on the job, he said.

Gubernatorial candidate Helena Foulkes backs gun control

On Monday, on the fourth anniversary of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Democratic candidate for governor Helena Foulkes declared her support for legislation to place a 10-round limit on high-capacity magazines and ban assault weapons.

“It’s unacceptable that in a state as Democratic as Rhode Island, we are so far behind our neighbors when it comes to gun safety,” she said.

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“I am incredibly grateful to the legislators and activists who have been fighting for this legislation for years and promise that you will have a strong advocate in the State House when I am elected governor.”

Gun-control supporters in the legislature have reintroduced the bills this year, Foulkes said:

Michael Neary schedules announcement; Bah unveils website

Omar Bah

Omar Bah

Michael Neary, one of the candidates for the Democratic nomination to run for Rhode Island’s Second Congressional District seat, has scheduled his official campaign announcement for Saturday at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick. He plans to hold the event between noon and 2 p.m. in the plaza ballroom.

Meanwhile, Congressional candidate Omar Bah unveiled his new campaign website – – while declaring his support for a slate of progressive causes.

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Democrat Bah, who is also seeking the Second District Congressional seat that long-time U.S. Rep. James Langevin is vacating, listed among his priorities: “Defending our planet, by supporting the Green New Deal; Defending democracy, with a specific focus on ensuring access to the ballot … and working to remove big money from politics … Defending a woman’s right to choose … promoting science literacy … Defending economic opportunity, by supporting the passage of the PRO act, which will ensure workers’ right to unionize, and by supporting expanded federal support for technical, vocational, and on-the-job training programs.”

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: RI Election 2022: Latest news from RI’s hottest races and canidates

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