Gabe Amo, a former White House official, capitalized on the momentum of the last few weeks of the campaign and won Tuesday’s special Democratic primary for a vacant seat in the US House of Representatives in Rhode Island.
His victory makes history and puts him on the path to becoming the first black person to represent Rhode Island in Congress. The result nonetheless disappoints the activist left, who had hoped one of their longtime allies, former MP Aaron Regunberg, would win.
Amo, who defeated ten Democratic rivals, will face Republican candidate Gerry Leonard in a special election in November.
But since Rhode Island’s 1st congressional district, which encompasses the eastern half of the state, is quintessentially Democratic, Amo is widely expected to represent the district in Congress.
Amo, who was born to Ghanaian and Liberian immigrants who raised him in Pawtucket, praised his experience in intergovernmental coordination for both President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama.
“You have to be adaptable. “The skills have to match the moment,” Amo told HuffPost in August, discussing his White House experience. “That’s the kind of versatility we should have in a congressman.”
The off-cycle election was sparked by the resignation in June of former MP David Cicilline to head a statewide nonprofit. Cicilline, which has held the seat since 2011, was a leading proponent of antitrust reform on Capitol Hill.
Given the relative rarity of a vacant congressional post in Rhode Island, where there are many Democratic elected officials, Cicilline’s departure sparked a flood of interest from Ocean State politicians hoping to succeed him.
Amo’s most significant competition came from three frontrunners: Regunberg, Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, and State Senator Sandra Cano.
Amo would almost certainly be a mainstream Democrat consistent with party leadership. He worked to protect Social Security and health insurance, fought for abortion rights and tried to enforce stricter gun control.
Above all, however, he relied on his personal qualities and experience. And his victory is a testament to the continued power of Obama and Biden to shape the Democratic primary, both of whom were unsupported in the race.
an amo TV spot begins with footage of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and former President Donald Trump to prove “the stakes have never been higher.” It concludes with photos of Amo with Biden and Obama. “Gabe Amo, trusted by President Obama and President Biden – the one with the experience we need now,” says the narrator.
Amo’s victory comes as a surprise as Regunberg has been leading the pack in internal polls for the past few weeks. Regunberg benefited from the approval of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whose presidential bids Regunberg had supported. He also had the support of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; the Working Families Party, which spent $250,000 on publicity on Regunberg’s behalf; and his own father-in-law, a finance executive who funded an independent direct mail campaign that drew criticism from other candidates.
“You won’t go wrong with Gabe.”
– Former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy (DR.I.)
Sanders’ blessing was perhaps the most important, as he won the Democratic presidential primary Rhode Island in 2016. On August 27th he held a rally for Regunberg.
Regunberg would not have been a member of the left “troop”. He cited Cicilline as an example of effective progressive governance and praised his own work in enacting state legislation to protect workers Paid sick leaveincrease of the state Minimum wage as a tipEstablishment of a commission to investigate the use of solitary confinementput into effect Online Voter Registration and to encourage homeowner acceptance solar panels.
“It’s really important that our next representative continues to champion the same issues and continue the kind of effective advocacy that I think we all appreciated from David,” Regunberg told HuffPost in August.
But Amo, who has seen a surge in fundraising that helped him reach voters on television, insisted that Regunberg was an impractical ideologue. He quoted Regunbergs comments in May that he voted against the debt ceiling bill on the grounds that it rewarded Republican “hostage-taking.” (In the closing debate, Regunberg said he would have voted for the bill if his vote had been needed to pass it.)
And Amo got last-minute support from former US Representative Patrick Kennedy, who held the House seat for 16 years before Cicilline. Following a vigorous agreement From Amo, Kennedy attacked Regunberg aggressively Local TV interviewHe called him an “extreme” ideologue whose support for a smaller defense budget would jeopardize Rhode Island jobs — and even the Democrats’ hold on the House seat. (Biden held the seat by 29 percentage points in 2020.)
“The notion that [Regunberg] “I was speechless,” Kennedy said. “The idea that you can be a good Democrat and a Liberal and not also support a strong national defense and good jobs here at home doesn’t make sense.”
District voters “won’t go wrong with Gabe,” Kennedy said.
The primary results also disappoint Latinos, who are hoping that either Matos or Cano will make history as the state’s first Latino or Latina representative in Congress. Matos, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, would have been the first Afro-Latino member of Congress. And Cano, a refugee from Colombia, would have been the first Colombian-American woman in Congress.
Matos suffered a particularly sharp decline in the House race due to her high profile and outside support. Three Super PACs, including groups affiliated with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and pro-choice group EMILY’s List, collectively spent $800,000 in support of Matos’ bid. But she never fully recovered from one scandal in July This happened due to the apparent forgery of petition signatures required to be allowed to vote.
Cano, who describes himself as a progressive, was ideologically closest to Regunberg. Among other things, it supports the introduction of Medicare for All and a wealth tax.
It had the support of the Rhode Island teachers’ union and many of its peers in the legislature, but lacked the resources to match the promotional power of its competitors.
Still, the timing of the special area codes could be a bright spot for both Cano and Matos. They have the opportunity to resume their duties as Senator or Lieutenant Governor.