Two northern RI legislators to run for congressional seat

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BURRILLVILLE/NORTH SMITHFIELD – A current state senator from North Smithfield and a former state representative from Burrillville – from opposing political parties – announced this week that they will be among those campaigning to fill the open seat left by the upcoming retirement of Congressman Jim Langevin.

Former Rep. Ed Pacheco, a Democrat who represented Burrillville in the Rhode Island House from 2005 through 2010, kicked off his campaign for the 2nd Congressional District on Monday, Jan. 24.

And two-term Senator and Minority Whip Jessica de la Cruz, a North Smithfield Republican, said she is also planning to seek her party’s nomination for the national seat.

Pacheco, who now lives in Warwick, is interim executive director of external relations and communications at Rhode Island College and executive director of the Rhode Island College Foundation, and is originally from Pascoag. The town native, now 40, served as chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party from 2010 to 2013.

Langevin has held the congressional seat since 2000, and announced last Tuesday that he plans to retire, and will not seek reelection in 2022.

“Thank you Congressman Jim Langevin for your unwavering commitment to Rhode Island,” Pacheco noted following the announcement on social media. “You are a true friend and advocate. Wishing you all the best with your future aspirations.”

Pacheco is among many Democrats across the state expected to campaign for the seat representing Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District in Washington, D.C.

de la Cruz had said Friday that she was also, “seriously,” weighing the option to run in an expected Republican primary for the congressional job. She reportedly told WJAR 10 that she had a goal of raising $100,000 for her campaign in a week, and ended up raising it in a few days.

A 40-year-old mother of three and native of East Providence, de la Cruz entered the political arena in 2018, winning the Senate District 23 seat previously held by Paul Fogarty, a Democrat, over Democratic opponent Kevin Heitke. She served on the judiciary and labor committees in her first term representing Burrillville, Glocester, and part of North Smithfield.

She has become a vocal advocate for funding to improve Burrillville’s Zambarano hospital, and has spoken out on issues including the governor’s extended use of emergency powers through the COVID-19 pandemic. She has said she also aims to be accessible to her constituents, holding monthly meetings at local coffee shops dubbed “Coffee with Jess.”

de la Cruz beat out Democratic challenger Paul Roselli in her reelection bid in 2020, and was named Senate Minority Whip in her second term.

She did not immediately respond to NRI NOW‘s request for comment on a potential congressional run on Monday.

de la Cruz does not live in the district, but reportedly said that there isn’t a law that prevents her from running for the seat.

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