Gabe Amo wins crowded Rhode Island Democratic primary for Cicilline’s seat

Former White House aide Gabe Amo won the crowded special election Democratic primary for Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District, The Associated Press projected Tuesday.

Amo, a former staffer in the Obama and Biden administrations, will go up against political newcomer Gerry Leonard (R) in November to replace Rep. David Cicilline (D), who resigned from his office in June to enter the private sector.

Amo took about 32 percent of votes in the primary, as of 9 p.m. Tuesday, besting state Sen. Sandra Cano, former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg and Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos. 

A dozen candidates participated in the Democratic primary, with the progressive Regunberg as the strongest opponent, garnering about 25 percent of the vote.

Amo was most recently the deputy director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in the Biden administration and an advisor to President Biden before leaving that post to run for Congress. He worked in the same office during the Obama administration before a stint as an aide to Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D).

The son of Ghanaian and Liberian immigrants, Amo gained endorsements from the Congressional Black Caucus and former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), who held the seat before Cicilline.

“From Pawtucket to the White House, I’ve dedicated my career to public service. Now I’m running for Congress,” he said in his campaign announcement. “I know how to work together to deliver results on what really matters, including housing, health care, reproductive freedom, and safety from gun violence.”

Cicilline announced he would resign in February to become the president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation after 12 years in Congress.

The Democratic primary pitted three powerful groups of House Democrats against each other, with Amo, backed by the Congressional Black Caucus, facing off against candidates from the Progressive Caucus in Regunberg and Hispanic Caucus in Matos.

Regunberg garnered the most significant endorsements in the race, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and multiple members of the Progressive Caucus headlined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

He also led in fundraising, bringing in $630,000, compared to Amo’s $604,000 haul and Matos’s $558,000.

Cano, the state senator who placed third in the race, outperformed Matos with only a fraction of the lieutenant governor’s fundraising.

Amo performed well throughout the entire district, winning the vote count in every town except for three. He didn’t gain the majority in Providence, which Regunberg represented in the state legislature, as well as the small towns of Central Falls, Cano’s hometown, and Woonsocket, hometown to fifth place finishing state Rep. Stephen Casey.

Amo is favored to win the Nov. 7 general election, as the 1st Congressional District is considered a seat safe for Democrats. In 2022, Cicilline won reelection to his seat by 28 points.

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