PROVIDENCE – Former White House aide Gabe Amo has come out on top in a crowded Democratic primary for or Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District special election, beating out a slew of fellow candidates to move on to the general election in the heavily Democratic state.
Amo hopes to succeed former Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, who stepped down earlier this summer to become the president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation.
Amo, who grew up in Pawtucket the son of Ghanaian and Liberian immigrants, would be the first Black candidate to be elected to the U.S. House from Rhode Island. No person of color has represented the state in Congress.
If elected, Amo said he would fight to ban assault-style weapons, support funding for research into gun violence prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and implement universal background checks.
Amo also said he would fight against what he described as extremist Republican attempts to slash funding for Social Security and Medicare, work to codify Roe v. Wade into federal law, and fight for more legislation at the federal level to combat climate change.
Amo also won the endorsement of former Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who represented the district from 1995 to 2011.
The prospect of an open seat in Congress initially drew the attention of dozens of possible candidates, particularly among Democrats.
Other Democrats on the ballot include former secretary of state candidate Stephanie Beaute, former U.S. Navy intelligence officer Walter Berbrick, Pawtucket state Sen. Sandra Cano, state Rep. Stephen Casey, and Spencer Dickinson.
The Democratic field of candidates also included Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, Providence City Council member John Goncalves, state Democratic state senator Ana Quezada, former two-term state Rep. Aaron Regunberg, and Allen Waters, who challenged Ciciline in the general election as a Republican last year.
“While I was hoping for a different outcome, tonight’s results show that Rhode Islanders are ready for more diverse representation in Congress for the first time. We can all celebrate and take pride in this historic milestone for our state,” Matos said “I congratulate Mr. Amo for his hard-fought victory in this crowded field. I know that he will represent Rhode Islanders well in Congress.”
Another candidate, Donald Carlson, suspended his campaign and endorsed fellow Democratic candidate, state Sen. Sandra Cano.
Amo will square off against the winner of the Republican primary in the Nov. 7 general election.
Gerry Leonard, a U.S. Marine veteran and political newcomer, has defeated fellow Republican candidate Terri Flynn, a former town council member, to win the GOP primary.
Leonard, the state Republican Party’s endorsed candidate in the race, will face off against the winner of the crowded Democratic primary contest in the Nov. 7 general election.
Leonard has said he believes that Americans know how to live their lives better than government bureaucrats and professional politicians do.
The Republican has criticized “Bidenomics,” saying Democratic President Joe Biden’s economic plan hasn’t helped ordinary citizens. He also said he favors a more limited government and supports U.S. efforts to aid Ukraine in its war against Russia, but said the U.S. also needs clear goals and an exit strategy.
Leonard also said he believes abortion should remain a state issue.
Leonard is a resident of Jamestown and a graduate of the Naval War College. He served for three decades in the Marines.
He faces a significant challenge in the general election in a state that has traditionally favored Democratic candidates. He said he is a strong proponent of term limits.
If elected, Leonard would become the first Republican to represent the 1st Congressional District since former Congressman Ron Machtley, who served from 1989-1995.
(Update: Comment from Matos added in 10th paragraph)