The first major Democrat to enter the race to replace David Cicilline in Congress is Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos. In a news release on Monday, Matos announced that she will officially run for the 1st Congressional District in the special election to be held later this year. Matos, the former president of the Providence City Council, was picked to fill the vacant lieutenant governor seat in 2021 and won her own four-year term in 2022. As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, Matos is the first Afro-Latina to serve in the state’s second-highest office.
Cicilline plans to resign by June 1 to lead the Rhode Island Foundation, making the congressional seat open for the special election. The Democratic primary is expected to be held in August or September, with an exact date yet to be set. Matos stated that she is running for Congress because Rhode Islanders deserve a champion who has a deep connection and commitment to the vibrant communities that make up the state. She is willing to fight for addressing affordable housing, protecting reproductive freedom, working to solve the climate crisis, and standing up to threats to democracy.
Matos is expected to hold a kickoff event in April. Although a resident of Olneyville, she does not currently live in the 1st District, although candidates are only required to live in Rhode Island. House Speaker Joe Shekarchi and former gubernatorial candidate Helena Foulkes are also still weighing whether to enter the primary. Several other Democrats, including Biden White House official Gabe Amo, state Sen. Sandra Cano, and Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien, are considering a run. The only 1st District hopeful who has filed formal candidacy paperwork with the Federal Election Commission so far is Allen Waters, the Republican nominee against Cicilline for the seat last November, who is running as a Democrat this time. No Republicans have announced campaigns for the 1st District seat so far, which is more heavily Democratic than the 2nd District.
Rhode Island has never sent a Democratic woman to Congress.