PROVIDENCE — On the money front, he leads the pack with a $1.3-million campaign warchest.
But state Treasurer — and likely 2022 candidate for governor — Seth Magaziner can’t count on all of the “free” news coverage that competitor Dan McKee gets, as governor, every time he opens his mouth, signs a bill or holds a press conference to announce the next step in Rhode Island’s “re-opening.”
So he’s become: Mr. Everywhere.
If there is a legislative press conference, a photo op with a high-profile Rhode Island labor leader or a chance to tout his progressive credentials, Democrat Magaziner is there.
By his staff’s count, he has this year alone testified remotely — or sent written testimony — on 74 bills and budget proposals, ranging from the proposed plastic bag ban to Medicaid coverage for doulas to an assault weapons ban.
His ubiquitous presence has not gone unnoticed by R.I. GOP Chairwoman Sue Cienki who says, even without a formal announcement, “It is very obvious Seth Magaziner is running for Governor.
“He is using his office as state treasurer to run … even showing up on a flyer for a local bond issue,” Cienki said of a mailer in which Magaziner urged South Kingstown taxpayers to vote for an $85-million school bond.
Magaziner’s photo appears on the mailer, alongside this pitch: “Approving the bond won’t just ensure that every child gets to learn in top-notch facilities equipped for 21st century learning, it’s also financially responsible and will save taxpayers in the long-run.” (Nonetheless, the bond was rejected last week: 5,261 to 1,986.)
Cienki: “If Magaziner wants to promote himself as a gubernatorial candidate maybe he should focus on doing the job he was elected to do rather than using that office to get attention.”
Magaziner spokeswoman Rosie Hilmer says he is doing what he was elected to do — and more.
“Since taking office Treasurer Magaziner has expanded the traditional role of the office to develop initiatives that promote economic growth and financial security for Rhode Islanders,” she said.
Her examples: “Creating the new statewide school construction program … expanding the Infrastructure Bank to create jobs building green infrastructure, and helping hundreds of small businesses get loans by moving state cash to local community banks.”
Magaziner was the man in the suit standing behind AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Patrick Crowley at a recent press conference touting the call by a group of progressive legislators for free RIPTA bus fare.
“As General Treasurer, my highest priority is promoting economic growth and financial security for Rhode Islanders,” Magaziner said that day at Kennedy Plaza.
He described himself as a member of the union-backed Climate Jobs Rhode Island.
“Free public transportation can grow our economy by more efficiently getting Rhode Islanders to and from their places of employment, education, and training, and helping workers to keep more of the money they earn and spending it in the local economy,” he said.
Added the AFL-CIO’s Crowley: “Being the first state in the nation to be able to talk about having a free public transportation system [is] one more arrow in the quiver that we need to attract businesses into this state.”
Pressed on how he would pay for free RIPTA, his office said: “The Treasurer believes that the roughly $15 million cost of this plan can be achieved by making public transportation more of a priority in the $11 billion state budget.”
Magaziner took turns at the microphone with Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council President Michael Sabitoni at an event hailing the hundreds of millions in borrowed money going into the construction of new school buildings.
A week earlier, he was in Pawtucket, with Mayor Donald Grebien, hailing the groundbreaking for a reconstructed Henry J. Winters elementary school, saying: “Every child deserves facilities that are warm, safe and dry and that prepare them for a future of success.
The event gave him a chance to talk about the time he spent. straight out of Brown University as an elementary school teacher in “Hurricane Katrina–ravaged Opelousas, Louisiana” between 2006-08 as a Teach For America Corps member.
“I taught school in a building that was falling apart where we had leaks in the roof. We had lead. We had asbestos … And I saw firsthand that the quality of the school building has a direct impact on the ability of teachers to teach and students to learn.”
“And so when Governor Raimondo asked me to co-chair the school building task force to come up with a state school construction I jumped at the opportunity.”
His Q1 fundraising report reflects the support he has gotten so far from the construction trade unions in a state with a $1,000 contribution cap:
RI Bricklayers PAC $250; International Union of Painters & Allied Trades Political Action Together Political Committee $1,000; RI Laborers Political League PAC $100; International Union of Operating Engineers (Local 57) PAC $1,000; Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 51 $1,000; IBEW Local 2323 PAC $1,000; RI AFL-CIO PAC $500; Iron Workers Local 37 PAC $1,000; Teamsters Local 251 DRIVE PAC $1,000.
Magaziner joined — and may, in fact, have had a hand in organizing — an April 29 walk-around the Zambarano hospital in Burrillville, mid-controversy over the downsizing plan that his political mentor, Raimondo, left behind.
The group met with the hospital administrators, employees and union leaders.
Two days later, Magaziner’s staff announced he was in quarantine after exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID, later determined to be a member of the governor’s staff.
As to why the state treasurer had involved himself in the hospital controversy, spokeswoman Hilmer said he “has been outspoken for some time in his opposition to closing Zambarano Hospital, a facility that cares for some of Rhode Island’s most vulnerable patients and is an important economic anchor for Northwest Rhode Island.”
“Following the visit,” she said, “the Treasurer remains very concerned about the ongoing situation at Zambarano, where there have been credible reports of doctors being pressured to discharge patients against their will, cuts to staffing and service levels, and severe safety deficiencies at the facility.
“The Treasurer believes that the hospital should remain open, ideally in a new facility, and be provided with the resources necessary to serve patients who lack other viable options for the level of care they need.”
Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea is also mentioned often as a possible candidate for governor next year.
She has begged off issues that do not directly relate to her defined duties which include: overseeing elections, archiving state records, registering lobbyists and administering an open-meetings website,
For example, in response to a question about the plight of the Providence schools and the union-driven effort to halt the growth of charter schools, her spokesman Nick Domings told GoLocalProv:
“She is very much aware of the situation [in Providence Schools]. But it does not fall under the purview of her office, so weighing in from the peanut gallery would just be using a serious issue as a political sounding board.”
The headlines surrounding Mayor Jorge Elorza are — no surprise — usually Providence-centric, such as this one: “Elorza says Providence set to launch guaranteed income program for city residents.”
But on some defining Democratic issues, McKee, Magaziner, Gorbea and Elorza have all stepped outside their statutorily-defined roles.
The House and Senate gun hearings provide clear examples.
McKee sent the lawmakers letters, such as this one urging an assault weapons ban. It said, in part: “These military-style weapons have no place on our streets, and we should follow the lead of our neighboring states in banning them.”
Magaziner urged passage of a package of bills introduced on his behalf and that of his fellow general officers. They include: the proposed assault weapons ban, 10-round limit on high-capacity magazines and schoolgrounds gun ban.
“As a former public school teacher,” said Magaziner, “I know the dread that parents and teachers feel every time the news of a new mass shooting is reported.”
Gorbea said: “This is actually the first time I have put my official secretary of state stamp on bills that were not submitted on behalf of my office. But I did so, as I imagine my colleagues did as well, because we absolutely need to start to enact common sense gun laws.
“I come from a three-generation military family and I believe it is the right of Americans to bear arms under the 2nd Amendment. However, not everyone should have access to military grade weapons,” Gorbea said.
Elorza, for his part, wrote. “Both in my personal life, and as Mayor, I’ve seen the devastating effects of gun violence first hand. I’ve felt the impact that it has on families and communities that fall victim in its path.
“This is why it is important that we show our support for bills … [that] prohibit the sale and possession of large capacity feeding devices, restrict the sale or transfer of firearms that aren’t properly registered and [ban] the possession or sale of assault weapons.”