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Lots Of Terrible Candidates Running In The Rhode Island Special Election-- And A Glimmer Of Hope

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

David Segal and Aaron Regunberg

David Cicilline, a strong and effective progressive is leaving Congress on June 1. Gov. Dan McKee hasn’t announced a date for the special election to fill the RI-01 seat yet. At this point several credible candidates have already declared their candidacies and have started raising money. The bluer of the two districts, the partisan lean is D+32. Trump only managed to win 34.7% of the vote in 2020 and the Democratic primary will be the de facto election.

Before I get into a plethora of bad news, let me start with some tentative good news. Former state Rep David Segal, a top notch progressive champion, is rumored to have given the race a look— and he told me that it's a real possibility, at least if no other viable progressive jumps in. He got over 20% in a four way race for that seat in 2010 when he was 30, and used to represent two of the largest communities in the district, Providence and East Providence. He’s currently serving as executive director of Demand Progress. And there is another awesome progressive considering the race— our old friend Aaron Regunberg. I’m hoping, with some sense of confidence, that one of them decides to run.

Rhode Island’s Democratic Party establishment is built on corruption and is extremely conservative and extremely corporate. The chances of an establishment candidate being worth anything is virtually nonexistent. The establishment candidates who have already declared are absolutely terrible.

So far the worst to have declared is Nick Autiello, a former Gina Raimondo staffer, who only ran for office once before— disastrously... after it became clear Autiello is a Republican pretending for political expediency’s sake to be a Democrat. His political experience was working for Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign, supporting John McCain and red-baiting and attacking Barack Obama from the right. He’s also an unabashed Sarah Palin fan and someone who always seems to go out of his way to attack Black people. Once he "decided" that he’s a Democrat, he immediately started working for his kind of Democrat: Mayo Pete’s presidential campaign. Autiello has been all over social media whining about AOC, Bernie and Elizabeth Warren. Everyone I know in Rhode Island says he’s a conservative corporate sleaze and that his photo-- the one on the right, for example-- could be in the dictionary next to a definition of the word “DINO.”

Another DINO jumping right in is state Rep Nathan Biah, who defeated progressive Moira Walsh in 2020 with the help of Rhode Island Right-to-Life and other anti-Choice groups and with the help of the Democratic establishment eager to elect and corrupt conservative to their ranks. (He was born in Liberia.)

Also jumping in last week was state Senator Sandra Cano, another worthless conservative. She’s the domestic partner of state Treasurer James Diossa, who was rumored to be considering a congressional run himself. (She was born in Medellin, Colombia.)

Current Lt Governor Sabina Matos, who has declared her candidacy, is another garden variety establishment Democrat, albeit not as bad as Biah, Cano or Autiello. (She was born in the Dominican Republic.)

In 2012 firefighter Stephen Casey took on arch conservative Jon Brien and beat him in a Democratic primary. Since then it’s been all downhill and Casey has been horrible in the state legislature. One last dreadful candidate: Allen Waters ran for office unsuccessfully a couple of times as a Republican and is running as a Democrat this time.

UPDATE: Great News!

Aaron Regunberg told me today (Monday) that he had decided to resign his judicial clerkship and formally explore a run for the congressional seat. Aaron: "I think there's a ton of people in our district who want to make sure that our next representative will be a real progressive fighter-- someone who we know will take on corporate power and fight for urgent climate action. There's a lot of work to do to see if a run makes sense, but we built a broad coalition in 2018, and I'm looking forward to having a bunch of conversations to see if there's excitement for a strong progressive campaign for this seat."


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