David Segal hasn't decided whether he'll run for Congress. Far from it. But it is mulling season. And he is mulling.
A former state representative now engaged in full-time lefty rabble rousing, Segal was one of four Democrats who ran for the seat of retiring Congressman Patrick Kennedy last fall. And he exceeded expectations, garnering a respectable 20 percent of the vote in a third-place finish.
The winner of the Democratic primary, of course, was then-Providence Mayor David Cicilline, a progressive who went on to defeat Republican John J. Loughlin II in the general election.
Cicilline, though, has had trouble leaving City Hall behind. Word of a $180 million structural deficit on the Providence books — and widespread belief that he covered up said deficit while running for Congress — have produced ugly polling numbers.
The latest: a WPRI-TV survey that has Loughlin and another Republican hopeful, retired State Police Colonel Brendan Doherty, beating Congressman Cicilline by wide margins.
It is that poll, Segal says, that has him thinking — tentatively, he emphasizes — about another run for Congress. "I think it's important to keep the seat in the hands of a Democrat," he says, "and I'd prefer a progressive Democrat."
Rhode Island's First Congressional District, he says, should be sending someone to Washington who will protect Medicare and Social Security, push for progressive taxation, and press for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Segal, who first disclosed his interest in a second run to WPRI blogger Ted Nesi, is not the only Democrat who could be up for a rematch with Cicilline.
Businessman Anthony Gemma, runner-up in last year's Democratic primary, has strongly suggested another race is in his future. And former state Democratic Party chairman Bill Lynch, who finished fourth, hasn't ruled one out.
A multi-candidate race, with a couple of moderate challengers like Gemma and Lynch, could actually make life easier for Cicilline — splitting the anti-incumbent and conservative Democrat vote.
Segal would add a new, potentially combustible element to the contest, though: a play for Cicilline's liberal base.
But ask Segal if he is worried about splitting up the progressive vote and handing the Democratic nomination — and the seat — to a more conservative politician, and he demurs.
He heard the same argument last time, he says. And besides, Cicilline's troubles have upended the calculus: "I think right now all bets are off in that regard because of the pervasive concerns about what's happened in Providence."