On January 3, 2023, the U.S. Congress will convene for the first time after redistricting from the 2020 Census, and Rhode Island will likely have an at-large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. It will be the first time since the 2nd Congress (March 4, 1791 – March 4, 1793) that RI will only have only a single seat, joining consistent at-largers like Alaska, Delaware, Vermont, Wyoming, and the two Dakotas.
But who will the solitary U.S. Congressman from Rhode Island be? Will it be David Cicilline? In 2023, Cicilline will be 61 years old and possibly have represented RI-1st for 12 years. On the other hand, Jim Langevin will be 58 and have possibly represented RI–2nd for 22 years. Will these two mainstays of RI politics be forced to run against each other? 20-20 hindsight won’t help determine the RI Congressional delegation in 2023.
A lot may depend on the two United States Senators: In 2020, Jack Reed will be 73 years old and will have served in the U.S. Senate for 26 years, while Sheldon Whitehouse will be 67 years old and have served in the U.S. Senate for 16 years. However, as the U.S. Senate Election of 2020 is a Class 3 election, it is not an election year for either Senate seat.
It’s unlikely that any of the four legislators will lose their seat; the last sitting members of the RI delegation to lose an election were Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) 2006, Freddie St. Germain (RI-1) in 1988, and Eddie Beard (RI-2) in 1980. Retirement is also unlikely as John Chafee (R-RI) died in office after 23 years at the age of 77, and Claiborne Pell (D-RI) served 36 years before retiring age the age of 78.
Pell’s successor, Jack Reed, however, is a perennially mentioned as a Secretary of Defense nominee or as a Democratic candidate for Vice President. Perhaps if the Democratic nominee for president needs a seasoned partner to balance the ticket as Barrack Obama chose Joe Biden, the bottleneck of RI politics will be lessened. Otherwise, a fraternal fight is brewing among RI Democrats in 2020.