Patrick Kennedy Retirement Spurs Heated Primary to Succeed Him in Rhode Island

The GOP primary has drawn attention from some national Republicans.


In Rhode Island's Second District, long a Democratic stronghold, the Democratic primary may be a tougher race than the general election. Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin, in office for nine years, has won all four of his reelections with over 70 percent of the vote. If he wants to repeat that success in November, he will first have to defeat his two opponents on the primary ballot--Betsy Dennigan, a nurse and attorney, and Ernie Greco, a political science professor. In the August Brown University poll, Langevin had a formidable lead, with 55 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him. Twelve percent said they would support Dennigan, and 1 percent were Greco supporters and 30 percent were undecided.

According to Congressional Quarterly, Langevin is a dependably party-line Democrat, voting with his party on 99 percent of the votes that divided mainly along party lines. Dennigan's platform shows her to be a liberal Democrat, as she expresses support for a health insurance public option, abortion rights, and same-sex marriage. Greco, for his part, is more moderate than Dennigan and Langevin. He has criticized Langevin's voting record as being too liberal and has also argued against the healthcare reform package and further stimulus spending.

Of the three, Langevin has by far fared the best in the fundraising arena. Langevin has raised nearly $950,000 and still had $516,879 in the bank as of August 25. Dennigan has rasied $273,097, including $170,000 from her own pocket. She has spent much of this in her fight to defeat Langevin, with less than $80,000 in her coffers according to her latest filing. There are no FEC fundraising reports available for Greco's campaign.

Among the four candidates in the Republican primary, business consultant Mark Zaccaria may be most familiar to voters. Zaccaria faced Langevin in the 2008 general election and is hoping to fare better this November if he makes it past Tuesday's race. He is facing a tough challenge from former business executive Bill Clegg, who leads in fundraising with $140,000, including $90,000 that he loaned to the campaign himself.

Zaccaria has taken in only $20,000 less than Clegg, with $118,000 in receipts, but has spent far more of his money: as of August 25, he only had $15,000 in his campaign account, compared to Clegg's $97,000.

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