Cumberland State Representative Karen MacBeth, who last week changed her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, announced Monday that she will run for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House in the First District, a seat currently held by Democrat David Cicilline of Providence.
MacBeth, 48, is a former Cumberland School Committee member who works as a principal in the Woonsocket School Department. She was first elected to the Assembly in 2008 and has climbed the leadership ladder, becoming chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee until last week. House Speaker Nick Mattiello, D-Cranston stripped her of the chairmanship when she flipped to the Republican Party.
She is best known in the House for an attempt to investigate the 38 Studios video game deal, but her probe didn’t uncover much that wasn’t previously known from media reports and legal documents from the state’s recovery lawsuit against law firms and financial advisors involved in the ill-fated company run by retired Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.
MacBeth joins conservative Russell Taub in the campaign for the Republican nomination.
``I'm running for Congress because career politicians serve themselves, not the people,'' MacBeth said in a statement.
MacBeth also the General Assembly's recent approval of truck tolls to finance infrastructure improvements and slammed Cicilline's financial management record when he was the capital city's mayor.
Shew took a shot at Mattiello without mentioning him by name, saying she was removed from her committee leadership post because she spoke ``truth to power.''
``I will never apologize for putting people above political power,'' she said.
And she slammed Cicilline's support for the Iran nuclear weapons inspection agreement. ``I promise to stand with Israel, our ally in the Middle East.''
Cicilline, 54, is a former East Side state representative and Providence mayor first elected to Congress in 2010. He won the seat when longtime incumbent Patrick Kennedy decided against pursuing reelection. Cicilline has comfortably won Democratic primaries and defeated three Republicans in general elections.
In 2010 Cicilline defeated Republican John Loughlin, another former state representative, by taking about 50 percent of the vote to Loughlin’s 45 percent. In 2012, Cicilline won a three-way contest in which former Rhode Island State Police Supt. Brendan Doherty, running on the GOP banner, finished second. Cicilline captured 53 percent of the vote to 40 percent for Doherty. Third party candidate David Vogel trailed far behind.
In 2014, Cicilline easily beat Republican Cormick Lynch, harvesting about 60 percent of the electorate.
The district runs from Woonsocket to Newport and down the spine of the eastern edge of Narragansett Bay. It includes the affluent East Side of Providence, such Blackstone Valley communities as Pawtucket, Cumberland and Woonsocket and the East Bay suburbs of Barrington, Bristol and East Providence.
MacBeth's challenge is to quickly become better known outside her rep district. Her challenges are formidable. Incumbents in the House are notoriously difficult to knock off; in 2014, even as public approval ratings or Congress tanked, 95 percent of incumbents till won reelection.
She will also have to raise a boatload of money --probably at least $1 million -- to have a serious shot at an upset. And the presidential cycle history of strong Democratic turnout should also help Cicilline in a district that went for President Obama by better than 60 percent in 2012.
Cicilline is a classic New England liberal and is one of a handful of openly gay members of Congress. A lawyer and member of the Judiciary Committee, he is known as an aggressive campaigner who frequently travels home to the district. In his tenure in Washington, D.C., he has never served in a Democratic majority House and does not have a long list of legislative accomplishments. But he is popular among the liberal activists in his party and has forged a voting record in support of immigration reform, labor unions, women’s rights and abortion rights. He has supported most of President Obama’s initiatives, including Obamacare and the president's recognition of Cuba.
MacBeth’s candidacy, floated on Facebook, was first reported by Ted Nesi of WPRI television. It came as no surprise; most State House insiders predicted her course when she changed parties.