Langevin endorses Magaziner in 2nd district; parties deny trying to cull field

Updated at 6:26 p.m.

REP. JAMES R. LANGEVIN, D-R.I., right, endorses R.I. Treasurer Seth Magaziner for the 2nd Congressional District seat. / PBN PHOTO/JAMES BESSETTE
REP. JAMES R. LANGEVIN, D-R.I., right, endorses R.I. Treasurer Seth Magaziner for the 2nd Congressional District seat. / PBN PHOTO/JAMES BESSETTE

PROVIDENCE – One day after the Republican field in the 2nd Congressional District race was narrowed to one, outgoing Rep. James R. Langevin, D-R.I., on Thursday threw his support behind Seth Magaziner on the crowded Democratic side.

The state Democratic Party on June 26 also endorsed Magaziner, the current Rhode Island treasurer. But both the party and Langevin insist they aren’t trying to clear a path for a one-on-one race with Republican Allan W. Fung two months ahead of the Sept. 13 primary.

Fung’s election path became clearer on Wednesday when he received the state GOP’s backing for Congress a few hours after former Cranston state representative Robert Lancia, who lost to Langevin in the 2020 race, suspended his campaign.

Langevin during a press conference near Waterplace Park said endorsing a candidate is “always difficult.” He said he had to evaluate “what is best for the 2nd Congressional District and for Rhode Island” and thinks it is Magaziner. But he also said it will be up to 2nd district voters in the primary and general elections who they want to send to Washington.

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Langevin, when asked by reporters, wouldn’t say whether the other Democratic candidates should drop out of the race and get behind Magaziner. He called them all “good candidates” and said it is “ultimately up to each individual candidate as to what they do next.”

Langevin chose Magaziner over two individuals who worked directly with him over the last few years. Clarendon Group CEO Joy E. Fox previously worked as Langevin’s director of communications and community relations. Omar Bah, founder of Providence-based nonprofit Refugee Dream Center, has served on Langevin’s diversity committee for the last five years. Bah told Providence Business News he has been on the board offering Langevin his perspective as a refugee and to better understand refugees’ struggles.

Bah criticized Langevin and the party for getting behind the “safe candidate” and insisted he won’t step aside in favor of Magaziner, as he believes they want him to do.

“It will never happen; we’re going to go all the way to the primary,” Bah said, also noting he’s more motivated now to get every vote possible.

Unlike Bah, former Providence city councilor and state Rep. David Segal does not feel he is being pushed out of the race by fellow Democrats and said he’ll continue campaigning.

Neither Fox nor Sarah Morgenthau, former deputy assistant secretary for travel and tourism with the U.S. Department of Commerce, were immediately available to speak with PBN. Fox in an emailed statement said she appreciates Langevin’s service, but called his decision to endorse Magaziner “disappointing.”

Rhode Island Democratic Party Deputy Director Emily Howe denied that the party is trying to narrow the primary field, saying: “If you want to run for office, that’s the democratic way. Everybody who wants to do it can do it.”

On the GOP side, party Chairperson Sue Cienki also denied Thursday that Lancia was urged by the party to step aside. Cienki said Lancia looked at the race’s polling numbers, and after pondering “what would be the best chance for a Republican to win” the seat, Lancia “graciously step aside.”

“I think Bob [Lancia] made the decision that was in the best interest of himself, his family and of the party that Allan [Fung] had the momentum going,” Cienki said. She also confirmed that Lancia will still be involved with the party this election year, referring him as a “valuable asset to the Republicans,” and will be working “to ensure many Republican victories” this year.

Lancia has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University’s Political Research Center, said Langevin’s endorsement of Magaziner indicates that Rhode Island Democrats are fearful they could lose the seat. He conducted a recent poll with the Boston Globe that found Fung leading all Democratic candidates in the race.

Paleologos thinks Magaziner was hoping to have his Democratic opponents repeat what President Joe Biden’s opponents did in the 2020 campaign after he won the South Carolina primary, which was “everyone folded in.

“Sometimes data points can be inflection points,” Paleologos added. “I think what Langevin could bring is a unifying message and bring potential demographics that Magaziner doesn’t have now. That is really the value” of the endorsement.

(ADDS last three paragraphs with Paleologos’ comments.)

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.

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