Bill Clinton to campaign in RI for Seth Magaziner

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former President Bill Clinton is set to visit Rhode Island later this month to campaign for Democratic general-treasurer candidate Seth Magaziner, WPRI.com has learned.

Clinton is scheduled to headline a rally for Magaziner on Aug. 27 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, Magaziner campaign manager Evan England told WPRI.com. Magaziner is a political newcomer, but his family has close ties to Clinton.

Clinton’s campaign stop will come just two days before the current Democratic president, Barack Obama, visits Newport to raise money for House Democrats.

Magaziner is battling former Treasurer Frank Caprio to win the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 9 primary. Ironically, the last time Clinton came to Rhode Island to campaign was in 2010 – when he came to support Caprio, who was then the general treasurer and the Democratic nominee for governor.

While the Caprio family has long supported the Clintons, the relationship they have with the former president is no match for that of the Magaziner clan. Seth Magaziner is already airing TV ads highlighting Bill Clinton’s endorsement of his candidacy, and he met with Hillary Clinton when she signed books at a Seekonk Sam’s Club last month. Bill Clinton also headlined a New York City fundraiser for Magaziner back in March.

Ira Magaziner, Seth’s father, met Clinton when the pair were both Rhodes Scholars at Oxford and later served as a top White House adviser, famously working with Hillary Clinton on an unsuccessful health-care overhaul; he also masterminded Rhode Island’s failed “Greenhouse Compact” plan in the 1980s. Ira Magaziner lives in Bristol and is now CEO and vice chairman of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, a Clinton Foundation project.

In June Caprio received the formal endorsement of the Rhode Island Democratic Party, which was chaired at the time by his brother, who has since resigned following controversy over beach-concession contracts. Magaziner has won the endorsement of groups such as the Young Democrats of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats. Labor unions are split between the two.

A third candidate for treasurer, former Auditor General Ernie Almonte, dropped out of the Democratic primary in late June and announced he would instead seek to win the treasurer’s office as an independent in November; Republican leaders are tacitly backing him. The three candidates met for a one-hour televised debate on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers last month.

A WPRI 12/Providence Journal poll in May showed Caprio with a double-digit advantage over Magaziner in the Democratic primary. The survey of 506 primary voters found Caprio in the lead at 29%, Magaziner in second place at 11%, and Almonte in third place at 9%. Nearly half of voters were undecided.

Magaziner finished the second quarter as the best-funded candidate in the race. As of June 30, Magaziner’s campaign had $245,642 on hand, while Almonte’s had $233,154 and Caprio’s had $195,716.

Ted Nesi ( tnesi@wpri.com ) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi