Above: Rep. Jim Langevin has been a regular visitor to East Greenwich during his time in office, including in 2018 at the swearing in of new elected officials, including Anne Musella on the School Committee.
The former state rep and R.I. Secretary of State, Langevin was also the first quadriplegic to serve in the U.S. Congress
U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin announced Tuesday he would not seek reelection in 2022, leaving after 11 terms in office in Washington. The Warwick native, who was paralyzed in a shooting accident at age 16, was the first quadriplegic to serve in the U.S. Congress. He served in the Rhode Island House of Representatives and then as R.I. Secretary of State before moving to his federal position.
His announcement comes even as the state did not lose a congressional seat after the most recent census, as had been widely expected. Had that come to pass, Langevin and Rep. David Cicilline would, conceivably, have had to face each other for a single House seat. As it is, Langevin’s decision provides a rare open Congressional seat in the November 2022 election.
As a U.S. Representative, Langevin focused on disability issues, cybersecurity, children and youths in foster care, military hardware (local shipbuilding, in particular), and those serving in the military and veterans.
“Looking back, I’ll always be most proud of my vote for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which lowered health care costs for everyone and secured coverage for millions of uninsured Americans. It is the most significant piece of legislation I ever supported,” he said in his video announcement about his decision not to seek reelection (see video, below).
“He’s been a fixture in politics for so long,” said Town Council President Mark Schwager, who said he’d gotten to know Langevin well over the years. “He’s been very involved in East Greenwich and very involved in the Town Democratic Committee. What is so remarkable was how much he knew about local politics.”
Schwager noted Langevin had often visited East Greenwich. “He did a lot of tours of local businesses. He was in town a lot and he came to a lot of our events. He was visible and available,” said Schwager. “He certainly had his impact on the federal and the state level but he was really a great resource and asset for us at the local level.”
Schwager said he got to know Langevin particularly during the 2004 National Democratic Convention, where they were both delegates for presidential candidate John Kerry.
“I got to ride in his van and see his setup. It was just so amazing to see how he got around all of Boston. It was a remarkable organizational feat … on top of all the other things he had to do,” said Schwager, referring to Langevin’s disability. He said, though, after a while, Langevin’s disability receded to the background. “You didn’t even see his disability.”
Town Councilor Renu Englehart said she was grateful for Langevin’s focus on the men and women who serve in the military, including her own son.
“Thank you for your hard work and especially for looking out for our military,” Englehart wrote on Twitter. Later, she added, “He’s been proactive in getting additional help for military personnel overseas and at home if they need. He’s always interested in hearing about military issues or, in my case, my worries over my kid…. I’m sorry he’s leaving.”
“We would like to thank Congressman Langevin for being a champion in D.C. on issues ranging from health care, education, to national security,” said Town Democratic Committee Chair Christa Thompson. “As our representative he showed up for us time and time again. I know this because over the years I have referred residents to his office and they have told me how thankful they were for his help. He never forgot that his role was making government work for his constituents.”
Thompson, whose husband Olin has ALS, added, “On a more personal level, I have been honored to work with Congressman Langevin as a legislative lead for the advocacy group, I AM ALS…. Congressman Langevin has been a Congressional champion for ALS families. He was an early and strong supporter of two bills: one in 2019 to remove the waiting period for ALS patients to receive SSDI benefits, and recently in 2020 on ACT for ALS which gives ALS patients access to experimental treatments. Both bills went on to become laws. On behalf of ALS patients and those who love them, I’d like to personally thank him.”
While Langevin worked hard not to be defined by his disability, he did find it meaningful when he served as temporary speaker of the House of Representatives in 2010.
“And I’ll always cherish the moment that I became the first Congressman in a wheelchair to preside over the House of Representatives as Speaker Pro Tempore, as we marked the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
Thank you, Rhode Island. https://t.co/5bBFektfyo
— Jim Langevin (@JimLangevin) January 18, 2022