Powerful Speaker won't run for Congress

Rhode Island House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News


Rep. Joseph Shekarchi, the Speaker of the Rhode Island House said in a statement Friday that he will not run for the soon-to-open first district seat in Congress.

“The outpouring of support I’ve received to run for Congress has been humbling, overwhelming and inspiring,” Shekarchi said in a statement. “At this time, however, I believe I can do more to help our state by continuing in my role as Speaker. This decision is not a political one but a deeply personal decision.”

Shekarchi, with a campaign warchest reported at just under $2 million, had been considered a front-runner in the race to succeed David Cicilline, who plans to resign his seat in Congress June 1 to head the Rhode Island Foundation.

Also announcing a decision not to run for the Congressional seat on Friday was former state Senator and Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor Cynthia Mendes. She announced her decision in an emotional video posted to TikTok.

Former State Representative Anastasia Williams also told WPRO’s Bill Bartholomew on Friday that she will not run for the Congressional seat.

In declining to join the race for the Democratic nomination for Congress, Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat said, “I believe I can do more to help our state by continuing in my role as Speaker.”

The Speaker is often considered the most powerful position in state government. The state constitution gives the General Assembly oversight over the executive branch, and the legislative branch committee that controls its purse-strings is structured to give the House an edge over the Senate.

On Monday, Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos announced that she will run for the Democratic nomination for Congress.

Allen Waters, who ran unsuccessfully against Cicilline as a Republican in the 2022 race has said he would run for the seat, but this time as what his website calls a “Rhode Island Blue Dog Democrat”.

To date, no Republicans have announced their intention to run for the seat.

A special election is expected to be scheduled after Cicilline formally resigns from Congress.

RI House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi said he would not run for Congress in a Tweet issued March 17, 2023