Democrat James Seveney has lived in Rhode Island his entire life. A Portsmouth native, Seveney received his Bachelor’s from Rhode Island College and later earned a Master of Science degree from the Naval Postgraduate School. Seveney also holds an MBA from Salve Regina University. After 22 years in the Navy, Seveney returned to Portsmouth in 1998. He worked primarily as a consultant in the defense sector but soon decided to run for public office. Seveney has served on the Portsmouth School Committee and the Portsmouth Town Council since 2004. As town councilman, Seveney focused primarily on improving the economy of Portsmouth, but also helped make strides in improving wastewater management and paving the way for Portsmouth’s wind turbine.
In September 2016, Seveney defeated Tiverton Councilman Brett Pelletier and former state Representative Amy Rice to secure the Democratic nomination for the District 11 Senate seat. He won the endorsement of the outgoing Republican State Senator Chris Ottiano, one of five Republicans in the senate before he resigned. On the other side of the aisle, John A. Pagliarini Jr., a 2002 candidate for lieutenant governor, landed the Republican nomination. While numerous democratic primaries across the state saw increasingly progressive candidates, Sam Bell, state coordinator of the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats believes that Seveney was a standout. “Jim [is]…the strongest champion of middle-class economic values,” Bell told the Providence Journal.
In a special election held in January 2016, Pagliarini defeated Seveney and Independent candidate Gregory Steven Blythe. But later in November 2016, Seveney was able to pull through to secure a victory against Pagliarini. Seveney won the majority in Portsmouth and Bristol (while Pagliarini won Tiverton), enough to win him 51.8 percent of the total vote. Upholding the legacy of his father, former State Senator Gardner Seveney, he remarks to the Providence Journal, “Now I get to walk in his footsteps.”