The three members of Rhode Island's congressional delegation who are up for reelection this year face welcome challenges from opponents. But while these challengers deserve the public's thanks, voters' ballots should go to the clearly more impressive incumbents. Sen. Jack Reed and Representatives James Langevin and David Cicilline, all Democrats, have worked in a challenging congressional environment to further Rhode Island's interests.
All three have gained experience in reaching across the aisle. These skills are not to be discounted as the electoral landscape continues to change.
In the House, Mr. Cicilline founded the Common Ground Caucus, which seeks to find areas of agreement between Republicans and Democrats. His opponent in the 1st Congressional District race, Republican Cormick Lynch, is a 29-year-old Iraq war veteran with no previous political experience.
As part of the Democratic caucus, Representatives Cicilline and Langevin have mapped out a broad strategy for helping the middle class. Among its elements are boosting manufacturing and enhancing job skills. Both can be expected to continue pressing these issues.
Mr. Langevin has become a national leader on cyber-security, an issue that rightly concerns both parties. His opponent in the 2nd Congressional District, Republican Rhue Reis, is a contractor and Foxwoods casino workers who has never held elective office.
Senator Reed, seeking a fourth term, has steadily amassed legislative credits since assuming the seat vacated by Claiborne Pell, in 1996. Hard-working and highly respected by his colleagues from both parties, the West Point graduate is particularly valued for his insights on defense.
A somewhat belated supporter of same sex marriage, Mr. Reed has consistently voted Democratic on a range of social issues. He favors reproductive freedom and fair pay for women. He also supporters restrictions on assault-style weapons.
During the financial crisis, which devastated Rhode Island workers, Senator Reed continually pushed to extend unemployment benefits. He played a visible role in reforming the financial system, and was particularly active in pressing for consumer protections.
Senator Reed has been a solid advocate for the state's environment, recently helping to secure federal funding to restore coastal watersheds in southern New England. He also helped to obtain billions of federal dollars to extend the fast-attack submarine program, ensuring continued jobs at the Quonset Point shipyards. Additional funding has been channeled to transportation improvements and neighborhood revitalization in the state.
Mr. Reed's opponent, Mark Zaccaria, is a former Republican Party chairman who has invoked conservative themes. But he lacks a record to match the senator's increasingly distinguished career. Rhode Islanders would be best served by retaining Senator Reed.
Congress faces some very challenging tasks in the next term: an exploding national debt, continued struggles to fund and expand health care, an economy still sputtering in many ways, the terrorist threat aimed at America, and more. The state's delegation will have to work hard to address these problems in ways that serve the people of Rhode Island.