The four Democrats in the debate sponsored by WPRI-TV, Channel 12, generally agreed on the issues, expressing support for President Biden’s plan to relieve student debt, a federal ban on what are called assault-style weapons, and the big COVID relief spending bill known as the American Rescue Plan Act.

General Treasurer Seth Magaziner has maintained a roughly 30-point lead in polls over the other Democrats, so the debate offered a chance for the rivals to focus the fight on Magaziner. Joy Fox made her case by pointing to her roots in the 2nd District.

“One of the bigger political issues in the general election here will be where we all live," she said, referring to the GOP candidate in the race. "And I take that right off the table. I will put my hometown girl up against Allan Fung’s hometown boy all day long.”

Magaziner, who recently rented a home in the Second District with his family, pushed back.

“Listen, I’m the only candidate who has won election anywhere in the Second Congressional District, in this primary," he said. "We won the Second Congressional District in both of my races for state treasurer, last time with more than 60% of the vote and the reason, they’ve seen that I show up and produce results.”

Activist David Segal is a former state rep and Providence city councilor. He noted that when he served as a state lawmaker, his district included parts of Providence that were in the Second District.

Another candidate, Sarah Morgenthau, registered to vote in Rhode Island earlier this year. She was unable to name a current or former female elected official who backs her campaign. Nonetheless, Morgenthau says her high-level experience in the Obama and Biden administrations, as well as her background as a mother and a lawyer, makes up for that.

“I have served two presidents," she said. "I have worked at Homeland Security, making our community safe, working on cybersecurity, working on cyberterrorism."

Segal argued that his efforts to hold corporate power accountable are not just good policy, but good politics.

“We’ve been able to make progress by ensuring that we get new regulators in place who are actually willing to contest the power of the corporations that have too much control over our economy and too much control over our government," Segal said. "And voters across the political spectrum agree with me on that issue.”

A fifth Democrat, refugee advocate Omar Bah, was not included in the debate by Channel 12. Criteria established by the station’s ownership requires candidates, for example, to raise at least $50,000 in campaign funds and to receive at least 5% of the support in an independent poll.

The winner of the Sept. 13th Democratic primary will face off in November against Republican former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.

Ian Donnis can be reached at