On Election Night 2012, two good friends -- House Speaker Gordon Fox and Congressman David Cicilline -- spent time together, savoring their re-election victories after a hard-fought and sometimes unpleasant campaign season.
But in the aftermath of the March 21 raid by state and federal investigators that spelled the end of the speaker's political career, Cicilline tells WPRI-TV's Tim White that he hasn't spoken with Fox. "I did reach out to him. I ultimately spoke to Marcus [LaFond, Fox's husband], and just told him I was thinking about them. He's been my friend for more than 20 years, and I think the whole thing is very sad."
Cicilline told White he doesn't have any idea why investigators raided Fox's home and Statehouse office. The two-term congressman says he hasn't spoken with investigators regarding a separate probe of a loan granted by the Providence Economic Development Partnership in 2009, and doesn't know what that is about.
“We don’t know what the investigation is about and I think it would be unfair and unwise to speculate on it," Cicilline said during his appearance on Newsmakers. "They will go through their normal course of investigating it and they’ll disclose it when they think it’s appropriate, and I think it’s unwise to speculate or guess.”
Cicilline served with Fox in the House before running for mayor in 2002, winning the first of two terms. He then ran for Congress in the First District, winning a four-way primary and then the general election, after Patrick J. Kennedy announced plans to give up his post.
Challenger Mark Binder, seizing on the failure of 38 Studios, made a sharp run against Fox in 2012, forcing the most powerful man in Rhode Island politics to work harder than he had in many years. In the end, Fox beat Binder by more than 10 percentage points.
As 2012 began, some pundits were writing premature political obits for Cicilline, due to the financial problems that emerged in Providence after he left the mayor's office. Cicilline apologized, worked like the tireless campaigner he is, and ultimately won a huge victory over his GOP challenger, Brendan Doherty.
Fox and Cicilline share similar profiles as openly gay liberals who reside on Providence's East Side. Yet their political futures look entirely different.
Fox remains hunkered inside his home as the cloud posed by the joint state-federal investigation hovers over him.
by contrast, Cicilline lacks a well-known challenger as he seeks a third term, backed by the benefits of incumbency and a steadily growing war chest (aided by a Sunday night campaign kickoff reception hosted by Barrett Bready).
Jonathan Maciel announced an independent run against Cicilline last year, although Maciel hasn't tweeted in more than six months. First-time candidate Matt Fecteau says he's making a Democratic challenge against Cicilline, and another newcomer to politics, Cormick Lynch, tells ABC6 he'll be running as a Republican. Stan Tran says he's also in the hunt.
While there has been speculation about a possible second run by John Loughlin, who challenged Cicilline as a Republican in 2010, state GOP chairman Mark Smiley says he doesn't expect that. "I'd really be shocked if John Loughlin changed his mind" after steadily talking against a run, Smiley says. The chairman say he hasn't been informed of any other Republicans planning to run for the seat held by Cicilline.
Update: Loughlin tells WPRO's Andrew Augustus he's taking a look at a possible run.
Loughlin tells RIPR he's considering a run since "a lot of folks have reached out to me and suggested that this might be a good year to run, so I certainly owe it to them to do the due-diligence involved to see if it makes sense to run."
Loughlin says the question of whether Cicilline can be beat is an element in his inquiry: "That’s part of the analysis. You know, is in fact the race winnable? Is it something that can be done successfully? And do I have a value proposition that’s going to resonate with the voters of the First Congressional District."