Big turmoil in the littlest state
February 21, 2023 6:50 AM   Subscribe

America's standard for small things, Rhode Island, faces serious upheaval in its congressional delegation as their second Representative plans to leave within a year. In January of 2022 Rep. James Langevin announced his retirement from his seat in the House of Representatives -- and now David Cicilline has announced that he's going to retire this May. Both men have used their role on the national stage to work for important causes, and will be missed. Whither Little Rhodey's delegation?

Langevin, paralyzed since being accidentally shot as a teen, was the only currently-serving member of congress who is a quadriplegic. He worked for the rights of the disabled, on cybersecurity, for health care, and more.

The capitol had a wheelchair lift installed so that he could preside over the House. I saw him speak a couple of years ago, and when he realized they'd neglected to provide a proper ramp, his standing wheelchair simply climbed the stairs -- and then stood him up to eye-level among the other guests, who sat on tall stools. Never batted an eye, and just went to work addressing the crowd.

Cicilline, former mayor of the state's capital city, Providence, has had a high profile in D.C. in recent years. He has spoken against dark money in politics and against e-book publishers, was a big advocate of the Respect for Marriage Act, and worked on anti-trust.

Both men are continuing to serve the public, in higher education and philanthropy, but their big voices for the small state will be missed.
posted by wenestvedt (6 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks, wenestvedt. I've long had an interest in RI politics, ever since a former newspaper colleague of mine told me of his part in the Buddy Cianci Saga. Paying a bit more attention because we're thinking about moving back to New England from DeSantisStan and RI is on the list. Will be in RI there next month, actually, with Providence as the hub for taking the Blank Juniors on some college tours.

The WaPo, for what it's worth, suggests Cicilline's choice may have something to do with him being blocked from rising any higher in the House leadership. Doesn't add anything else to your links, but here it is, free to read.
posted by martin q blank at 8:36 AM on February 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

Running in November and fucking off in February is pretty rude.
posted by Etrigan at 8:58 AM on February 21, 2023 [4 favorites]

Running in November and fucking off in February is pretty rude.

I kind of thought so, too. To be fair, the Rhode Island Foundation is probably the largest charitable foundation in the state, and its head just announced he is leaving.

Cicilline still does the "retail politics" thing: he showed up at my two sons' joint Eagle Scout Court of Honor last spring just because he was in town and had a free few minutes on the way to another event. He hung around to chat with whoever was there early and congratulated the boys, then took off when we started late. (The kids were pretty surprised!) Anyway, I think he may still like that small-scale kind of work, and because RIF gives money to tons of organizations and individuals, in that job he'll definitely get as much face time as he wants. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 11:00 AM on February 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

Cicilline has been a really solid voice in Congress, and he’s one of those rare politicians that I was happy to vote for. Sadly, I doubt RI will get someone as good, much less better.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:22 AM on February 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

I’m going to miss him, but I kinda don’t blame him for leaving, even though he just won re-election. He’s been primed for House leadership and my speculation is that he was promised a role but then Clyburn decided to remain in leadership. Leaving is a bit like taking his toys and going home, but I suspect that losing the assistant leader position might have been a last straw situation.

Or maybe he just wanted the money. Who knows?
posted by Ruki at 12:40 PM on February 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

Cicilline's a somewhat mixed bag, in my book - he's long been an active part of, and supporter for, RI's gay community (he's openly gay himself, and especially back when he first got involved in politics that wasn't easy, even around here), and he's generally found himself on the right side of most other issues. He's been a reliable party-line Democrat, probably somebody Pelosi never lost a minute's sleep worrying about.

On the other hand: He decided to run for Congress right about the time his approval rating as the mayor of Providence sank into the basement and the city's budget was about to implode (leaving his successor, Angel Tavares, to unwittingly inherit a financial disaster that Cicilline had covered up and lied about; Wikipedia has a pretty even-handed and dispassionate summary under "Budget Controversy"). Given that, my kneejerk reaction to hearing he's leaving the House of Reps is to wonder what mess he's escaping from this time.

Langevin, on the other hand, is a really smart and insightful guy, and while he's long been extremely cozy with the military-industrial complex, I think that was chiefly motivated (at least initially) by simple recognition of what an important employer Electric Boat is around here. Especially compared to how many other Congresspeople can seem like out-of-touch Luddites w/r/t technology, Langevin was always pretty sharp on cybersecurity stuff, and that'll be badly missed. Seth Magaziner, who won Langevin's seat....strikes me as lot more similar to Cicilline than he is to Langevin.
posted by mstokes650 at 3:13 PM on February 21, 2023 [4 favorites]

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