Census surprise: Rhode Island keeps both its U.S. House seats

FILE - In this July 16, 2019, file photo an American flag flies on the Capitol Dome in Washington. The U.S. budget deficit climbed to $2.81 trillion in the first 10 months of the budget year, exceeding any on record, the Treasury Department said Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) Carolyn Kaster / AP, File

Rhode Island is enjoying a census surprise: The state clung to enough of its population to retain both of its two seats in Congress.

That’s according to the latest census count released Monday. Many had expected the Ocean State to lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, which would have set up a political showdown between Democratic Reps. David Cicilline and James Langevin.

Seats in the House are apportioned following a complicated formula based on each state’s population as determined by the once-a-decade national census.

Rhode Island has had two seats in the House since the late 1700s, save for two decades in the early 20th century when it had three seats, according to The Providence Journal. The last time it had just a single seat was in the original Congress in 1789.

The nation’s geographically smallest state has more than 1 million residents but has been losing population, and that stoked expectations that it might lose representation in Congress.

Cicilline, a former Providence mayor, was first elected in 2010. He’s one of just a handful of openly gay members of Congress and is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party.

The 59-year-old former defense lawyer was among the House Democrats who led the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump earlier this year. His 1st Congressional District represents a relatively diverse, liberal swath of the state, including most of Providence and the northern and eastern communities.

Langevin, who was first elected in 2000, is the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress.


The 57-year-old has been a leader on cybersecurity issues as a founder of the House Cybersecurity Caucus. He was paralyzed as a teen in a shooting accident during a Boy Scouts program at a local police station.

Langevin’s 2nd Congressional District covers the southern and western parts of the state, which are comparatively more conservative and rural.

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