Democrats will choose from a packed field of candidates in a Rhode Island primary on Tuesday that will almost certainly determine who will fill a vacant seat in Congress.
Then-Rep. David Cicilline resigned earlier this year to take a job managing Rhode Island’s largest philanthropy, creating a rare high-profile vacancy in a small and largely Democratic state.
As many as twelve Democrats are on the ballot, several claiming the support of major national groups. There are two candidates on the Republican ballot, but a Republican has not won the Providence-based 1st Congressional District in decades.
“Rhode Island is smaller than probably most counties in the United States, and yet they have an inordinately large number of elected officials,” said Rich Luchette, a former adviser to Cicilline, who has not endorsed a successor. “They are all ambitious, they all look in the mirror and see a future congressman.”
The state has a relatively large legislature and numerous small municipalities, most of which are governed by Democrats, resulting in a plethora of contenders.
The frontrunner was seen as Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, but a scandal involving counterfeit signatures collected on her behalf to get on the ballot could have fatally damaged her prospects.
She has denied the wrongdoing and blamed a rogue salesperson for collecting the fake signatures, but her slow response to the controversy, the attorney general’s ongoing investigation, and the lack of other major campaign developments this summer meant that she had bad headlines for months.
The other two leading candidates are seen as former State Representative Aaron Regunberg — who has sought to shut down the Progressive line with support from Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y. — and former White House official Gabe Amo, who has the support of Ron Klain, President Joe Biden’s former chief of staff, and former Representative Patrick Kennedy, D.R.I.
While the race bears some resemblance to the battle between progressives and establishments played out in other recent congressional primaries, the battle lines are much less clear.
Unions and national interest groups have split their support among numerous candidates, while Regunberg has largely consolidated the left.
For example, the Congressional Black Caucus supports Amo, while the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the women’s group Emily’s List, along with some major labor unions and the New Dems, support Matos.
“The surprising thing to me is that so many national groups have spent so much money on a seat that will effectively elect Hakeem Jeffries as the next leader,” Lucchette said, referring to New York congressman who succeeded Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader of the House of Representatives. Deputies. .
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com