On Tuesday, Rhode Islanders are heading to the ballot box. While there are several high-profile races being contested that day, the Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District to replace the seat held by seven-term Democrat, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline is one hot ticket. Out of the 11 candidates vying for this seat, one could make history if she wins: Sabina Matos.
A victory for Matos would mean that the Ocean State would be sending “its first person of color to the U.S. House and give Congress its first Afro-Latina.”
Matos’ career serving in public office spans over a decade. She is the current Lieutenant Governor for the state of Rhode Island, and prior to that, she “served on the Providence City Council.” During her tenure as a City Councilwoman, Matos became “the first Latina to hold the position of City Council President Pro Tempore in 2015, and in 2019 she was elected City Council President by her peers. She has the distinction of being the first Latina to hold both positions in the city’s history.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Matos sat down with ESSENCE to discuss her campaign and why she’s running for office.
“Now more than ever, we need to send people to Washington who are going to be fighters for democracy.” Matos recounted how she immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic at just 20 years old. “I didn’t speak the language and I learned by working in a factory,” she said. “[I was able to] go to college, get a degree and represent my community and become an elected official. Those are things that only happen in this country because of the strong democracy that we have.”
But Matos is worried about the state of our democracy, telling ESSENCE, “I feel that we’re taking that for granted. Democracy is too important. And we need to fight.”
When Matos was first approached about running for Congress, she said that initially she was hesitant, having just come off the campaign trail for her Lieutenant Governor race. But she recalled the moment that changed: when she was en route to a Black History Month celebration at the White House, listening to Stacey Abram’s “Leading From the Outside” audiobook while on the plane.
“It was a book that I had read before, but I went back to listen to it, and I felt like she was speaking to me and telling me, ‘yes you have to do this,’” continued Matos. “There’s a real, tangible experience that I bring to Congress, and I realized that it was a key moment for the state of Rhode Island. This is the moment that needed me to step up.”
“We need people to go to Washington that are going to be strong fighters for a woman’s right to choose, making sure that abortion is protected at the federal level. And now more than ever, we have to make sure that we send someone who is going to be a strong voice for women’s rights,” said Matos.
Indeed, this election is personal for Matos, who’s also a proud wife and mother. “I just want to go to Washington to make sure that my daughter [has more] rights than what we have right now.”