After 12 years representing RI’s first district in the US House of Representatives, David Cicilline will step down effective Jun 1, 2023, according to a statement released by his office late this morning. He will become president and CEO of the RI Foundation, a major philanthropic organization, replacing Neil Steinberg who announced his retirement several months ago.
Cicilline has held the seat since Jan 2011, most recently re-elected in Nov 2022 to a term ending in Jan 2025, defeating Republican challenger Allen Waters, 63.8% – 36.2%. The district is considered a safely Democratic seat, and the margin of victory is comparable to that estimated in the subsequently redrawn district for the most recent presidential election in 2020. As a result, a Democratic primary to fill the vacancy is expected to be fiercely competitive, effectively setting the stage for an easy win in the general election.
The Office of the RI Secretary of State said that the timing of a special election would, by law, be determined by the governor. “A vacant seat in the House of Representatives is filled through a special election. In collaboration with the Board of Elections, the Department of State will begin the special election process once requested by the Governor,” a spokesman told Motif. The law provides that the special election will be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of the month.
UPDATE Feb 23: The office of Secretary of State Gregg Amore told Motif, “We are beginning to map out a possible timeline for the special election that would comply with elections law and create enough time to satisfy all of the procedural elements of holding a special election. Once the election is called for, there will need to be a candidate declaration period, a signature collection and verification period, and internal ballot preparation. Then, federal law requires that mail ballots are sent to overseas voters [primarily active duty military] 45 days before both the primary and the general. At this time, we believe that statutorily, the earliest a primary could be held would be August 8. If the primary were to be held on August 8, the general would likely follow on October 3. If the primary were to be held September 5, the general would likely follow on November 7. These are only preliminary, possible dates. Later dates are possible. No dates have been set or confirmed. The Department of State is working collaboratively with the Governor’s Office, the Board of Elections, and the local cities and towns to ascertain the feasibility of different scenarios.”
Cicilline previously served as mayor of Providence from 2003 to 2010 and in the RI House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He is an attorney by profession, graduating from law school at Georgetown University in 1986 and receiving a bachelor’s degree from Brown University in 1983.
In a statement, Cicilline said, “The chance to lead the Rhode Island Foundation was unexpected, but it is an extraordinary opportunity to have an even more direct and meaningful impact on the lives of residents and families of our state.” He characterized the RI Foundation as “one of the largest and oldest nonprofit community foundations in the nation.”
Cicilline did not address the issue in his statement, but it is a reasonable inference that a significant factor in his decision to leave Congress was his party’s loss of majority status in the Nov 2022 election, greatly reducing his ability to accomplish anything in the narrowly divided chamber after being relegated to the minority. In his previous term, he served on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Judiciary Committee, holding the chair of the latter’s Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law Subcommittee.
“I write today to convey my deepest and most sincere gratitude to the residents of the First Congressional District. I am extremely grateful for the support of the people of Rhode Island, my dedicated staff, and the help of the many organizations and individuals that I have had the privilege to partner with over the past twelve years,” Cicilline said in the statement. “I once again extend my genuine and heartfelt appreciation for the honor to have served as your representative in the United States Congress.”
Continuity of office will be preserved, Cicilline said in the statement: “I will remain in office until I officially submit my resignation to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and Governor McKee on May 31, 2023. Constituents can continue contacting my office for assistance with federal agencies and to share your opinion or request information on pending legislative matters before Congress. After June 1, 2023, members of my staff will continue to operate offices in both Rhode Island and Washington, D.C. under the supervision of the Clerk of the House of Representatives until a new Member of Congress is elected. My office will provide additional information in the weeks ahead regarding this transition period.”