Magaziner sweeps to victory in R.I.’s 2nd Congressional District primary

Edward Fitzpatrick | Boston Globe >>
The Democratic general treasurer will now face a high-profile matchup against Republican Allan W. Fung for the seat that Democratic Representative Langevin held for 22 years

PROVIDENCE — General Treasurer Seth Magaziner on Tuesday scored a convincing win in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District seat the US Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin is vacating after 22 years in office.

Magaziner won with 54 percent of the vote, far ahead of David A. Segal at 16.1 percent, Sarah E. Morgenthau at 12 percent, Joy Fox at 10.9 percent, Omar Bah at 4.6 percent, and Spencer E. Dickson at 2.4 percent, according to results from 98 percent of polling places.

The victory sets up a high-profile matchup between Magaziner and Allan W. Fung, a Republican former Cranston mayor who gives the GOP its best chance to flip a seat that has been in Democratic hands since 1991.

“Our campaign is not about me,” Magaziner said in a victory speech at the Greenwood Inn in Warwick. “It is about making sure that fundamental rights, and in particular the right of women to make their own health care decisions, is protected in this state.

Also, he said his campaign “is about making sure that we protect Social Security and Medicare and the Affordable Care Act against the concerted Republican efforts to take away those benefits that people paid for and earned. And,” he said, “It is about making sure that we defend our democracy against Donald Tump and the MAGA crowed that is determined to undermine the integrity of our elections,” he said.

Magaziner said Fung has shown he will support House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy “and the extreme MAGA Republican who want to take control of Congress.” He warned that McCarthy would push for a national abortion ban and repeal the Affordable Care Act. “Those are not Rhode Island values,” he said.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Sean Patrick Maloney congratulated Magaziner, saying, “Seth’s record of results in Rhode Island, investing in education, clean energy, and job creation, is one to be proud of. In this district, Rhode Island voters will have the clear choice between Seth, a proven fighter for Rhode Island, and Allan Fung, an anti-abortion rubberstamp for MAGA Republicans.”

Term-limited as treasurer, Magaziner first announced that he would run for governor. But eight days after Langevin made his surprise announcement, Magaziner pivoted and jumped into the congressional race, arguing that he was “the strongest Democrat to take on Allan Fung in November.”

In June, a Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll found Magaziner leading the Democratic field with 30 percent of the vote, followed by David Segal at 8 percent, Joy Fox at 8 percent, Sarah Morgenthau at 3 percent, and Omar Bah at 3 percent. In head-to-head matchups, the poll showed him doing better against Fung than the other Democrats but still losing to Fung, who had to 44.9 percent to Magaziner’s 38.5 percent.

In August, a WPRI/Roger Williams University poll showed Magaziner leading the Democratic race with 37 percent, ahead of Morgenthau at 8 percent, Segal at 8 percent, Fox at 4 percent, and Bah at 3 percent.

A Magaziner/Fung matchup will include a Democrat and a Republican who have both run and won the 2nd Congressional District in statewide contests.

Magaziner received the most votes in the 2nd Congressional District when he won the 2014 and 2018 races for state treasurer. And Fung, who lost two gubernatorial races to Democrat Gina M. Raimondo, received the most votes in the district when he lost the 2014 governor’s race.

The 2nd Congressional District, which embraces the western half of the state from Burrillville to Westerly, is considered more conservative than the 1st Congressional District.

Ten years ago, Rhode Island Democrats redrew the boundary between the state’s two congressional districts, bolstering Democratic US Representative David N. Cicilline’s chances as he faced abysmal poll numbers and a strong opponent in his first re-election campaign in the 1st Congressional District. But observers say that decade-old Democratic gerrymandering might come back to bite Democrats this year.

In 2016, former President Donald J. Trump won 46 percent of the two-party presidential vote in the 2nd Congressional District, compared to only 37 percent in the 1st Congressional District. And in 2020, Trump won 43 percent of the two-party presidential vote in the 2nd Congressional District, compared to 35 percent in the 1st Congressional District.

During the primary, Magaziner faced accusations of being opportunistic. A Fox ad compared him to a frog leaping from one lily pad to another — from the governor’s race to the 2nd Congressional District race. “He’s looking for a job, not looking out for you,” the ad says.

And Magaziner launched a campaign for the 2nd Congressional District seat while living in the 1st Congressional District. But in early August, Magaziner moved with his family from the house they own on Providence’s East Side to a rented home on Norwood Avenue in Cranston’s Edgewood neighborhood, which is in the 2nd Congressional District.

Fox, who served as an aide to Langevin and Raimondo, emphasized that she grew up in the 2nd Congressional District and lives there now. “I have deep roots in this district that give me a deep understanding of the challenges we all face,” she said during a WPRI-Channel 12 debate. “It is no secret that one of the bigger political issues in the general election here is where we all live, and I take that right off the table.”

But on Tuesday night, Fox sent supporters a message, saying, “We need to keep going to keep this seat firmly in Democratic hands. I know we can do this together. So, today, I am asking you to join me in supporting our Democratic nominee, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner.”

In June, Langevin endorsed Magaziner as his replacement, saying, “There is simply no doubt that Seth is the strongest candidate to keep the seat in Democratic control and fight back against dangerous and divisive leaders like Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump, who are undermining democracy and threatening working Rhode Islanders.”

Segal, a former state representative and a member of the Providence City Council, was seen as the most progressive candidate in the Democratic field.

He received an endorsement from US Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and former presidential candidate, who said Segal “he has been a champion in taking on corporate interests, breaking up big monopolies, and demanding that health be considered as a human right, not a privilege.”

Morgenthau, who served in the Biden and Obama administrations, argued that it is time for Rhode Island to elect a Democratic woman to Congress for the first time — especially now that the US Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade.

But two prominent Rhode Island Democratic women — former Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth H. Roberts and former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Myrth York — backed Fox rather than Morgenthau.

Critics called Morgenthau a carpetbagger, noting she acknowledged she had never lived in Rhode Island full time and had never enrolled her children at schools in the state. She said she had personal ties to the 2nd Congressional District because her family has long had a summer home in Saunderstown, in North Kingstown. She registered to vote in North Kingstown in early February, listing the Saunderstown property as her residence.

On Tuesday night, Morgenthau issued a statement, saying she had congratulated Magaziner on his victory. “The most important thing is that we keep this seat under Democratic control,” she said. “The stakes are simply too high. I have assured the treasurer that I will do everything in my power to ensure that is the case, and to support his campaign in the months to come.”

Omar Bah, founder of the Refugee Dream Center, presented himself as a clear alternative to “establishment politicians” such as Magaziner and Fung.

Bah said that as a child, he walked to school barefoot and watched people taken to the hospital in donkey carts. As a young man, he was beaten and tortured for standing up to a dictator as a journalist reporting the truth. And after he was forced to flee his home in West Africa, he made Rhode Island his home, helping other refugees while earning a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, and a doctorate in leadership psychology.

But Bah and Spencer E. Dickinson, a former Democrat state legislator from South Kingstown, trailed in fund-raising and did not meet the criteria to participate in the Aug. 30 WPRI debate.

According to the Federal Election Commission reports through Aug. 24, Magaziner took in the most campaign cash, raising $2.3 million while spending $995,709. Morgenthau took in $977,830 and spent $485,647. Segal received $527,749 while spending $337,045. Fox raised $308,796 while spending $266,038. Bah raised $62,828 and spent $57,303. And Dickinson raised $12,000 while spending $6,687.

Fung, who did not face a Republican primary opponent, has raised $1.2 million while spending $248,813.

— Globe reporter Brian Amaral contributed to this report.