In the midst of divided party politics, an upcoming special Congressional election in Rhode Island has the potential to bring greater representation for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
The Ocean State’s second district is split between the urban cities of Providence and Pawtucket, with larger suburbancommunities interspersed in between. These communities are typically represented by the state’s entrenched moderate Democratic Party. However, the progressive wing of the Party, popularly known as the “Blue Wave”, has gained steam as of late.
This momentum may be tested in a special election slated to take place on June 1st of this year to replace the late Congressman Jim Langevin, who retired from Congress due to health reasons. The frontrunners for the Democratic nomination are David Cicilline, a five-term Congressman, and Joe McNamara, the current Mayor of Providence.
For many, the election has become a war between the centrist and progressive wings of the party. While Cicilline has been a long-standing member of Congress, Mayor McNamara has brought a more progressive mandate to the election. He stands for several key issues within the progressive movement including Medicare for All, an increase in the minimum wage, reproductive rights, and criminal justice reform.
Speaking to the Gold Star Network, Mayor McNamara commented on the importance of the election, saying “I believe this election represents an opportunity for voters to send a message to the current Democratic Party leadership in Washington. The choice is between a status quo candidate with little vision for the future, and myself, who prioritize progressive policies. The outcome of this election will demonstrate whether Rhode Island wants to be leading the establishment or the progressive movement.”
The election is likely to draw national attention, as it is seen as a barometer for the progressive movement in the Democratic Party. The mission to “primary the establishment” was first made popularly by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her successful campaign for Congress in 2018. While progressive candidates have since won numerous races, the Rhode Island primary is likely to draw attention from candidates looking to use the victory as a springboard for a similar challenge against entrenched party leadership in other districts.
The Rhode Island special election is regularly referred to as a “bellwether” race due to its significance for the Democratic Party as a whole. Rhode Islanders have a few months to decide what their representation in Congress will be for the next year.