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The Rhode Ahead

Ex-Rep. Weygand Among Those Mentioned For Possible House Vacancy

A former Congressman and the lieutenant governor head the list of would-be Congressional candidates in Rhode Island’s 2nd district, as more political observers become convinced that Rep. James Langevin (D) will vacate his seat to run for the Senate next year.

Langevin has set an April 1 deadline to decide whether he will challenge Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) in 2006.

Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown (D) has already declared his Senate candidacy and Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey (R) may force Chafee into a primary for what is expected to be a tight general election campaign.

Meanwhile, at least three current or former officials are eyeing Langevin’s 2nd district seat. The western Rhode Island district, which has a portion of Providence and includes Cranston and Warwick, is heavily Democratic, as is most of the state.

On the GOP side, only Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian is thinking about a Congressional bid. Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty and former Rep. Robert Weygand might be inclined to run on the Democratic side.

“If the Congressman decides that he’s going to run for the Senate, then I would give serious thought to running for the Congress,” Avedisian said.

As for challenging Langevin, should the incumbent decide to seek re-election to the House, Avedisian said no.

“He’s a dear friend and neighbor and we worked together in the past, so the idea that I would run against a friend of mine is not going to happen,” he said.

Avedisian was first elected Warwick mayor — an office Chafee once held — in 2000, and said he realizes that even in an open-seat situation, he would face an uphill battle.

“It’s never easy as a Republican in this state,” he said. “I think it’s a very winnable district, though. It is a district that is willing to elect Republicans.”

Langevin won re-election last year with 75 percent of the vote.

While Fogarty has been mentioned as a potential Senate and gubernatorial candidate next year, he is probably most apt to seek an open House seat.

“The lieutenant governor has indicated that his interest lies in the governor’s office, that the Congressman is currently sitting in that seat, and that that option is not open,” Fogarty spokeswoman Sue Pegden said. “As long as Langevin wants that seat, he’s a friend and [Fogarty] will support him in that seat. And if [Langevin] wants to go to the Senate, he will support him there as well.”

But a knowledgeable source said that to read between the lines, Fogarty is almost certain to jump into the House race if Langevin leaves to run for Senate. Gov. Donald Carcieri (R), who is also up for re-election in 2006, remains popular in the polls, and no big-name Democrat has stepped up to challenge.

Fogarty’s name, like Chafee’s, is well known in the Ocean State. His uncle was the late Rep. John E. Fogarty (D), who held the 2nd district seat for many years.

Former Rep. Robert Weygand (D), who surrendered the 2nd district seat in 2001 after losing to Chafee in the 2000 Senate race, is believed to be interested in getting his old seat back. Himself a former lieutenant governor, Weygand was elected to Congress in 1996.

Weygand, who is now vice president of the University of Rhode Island, said he is flattered that his name is being floated but said it is too early to say if he would consider the race. And he appeared cautious about discussing his ambitions until he knows what Langevin’s plans are.

“I know he’s doing his due diligence” in weighing the Senate race, Weygand said of Langevin, who traded being secretary of state for Congress when Weygand vacated the House.

“I have spoken to him a couple of times,” Weygand said. “Until he makes his decision there are going to be a lot of rumors out there. … It’s very speculative.”

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