Gabriel Amo wins the Rhode Island Democratic House primary
Gabriel Amo, a moderate Democrat who served in the Biden and Obama administrations, won the special Democratic primary in Rhode Island’s 1st congressional district on Tuesday, making him the first person of color to represent the state in Congress.
Mr. Amo, who is black, beat out 10 other Democrats to win nearly a third of the vote in the deep blue district, ensuring he would succeed former Representative David N. Ceciline, who resigned last May. He became president of the Rhode Island Corporation.
“I said from day one that Rhode Islanders deserve someone who can be effective from day one.” Mr. Amo said on Tuesday after winning. “I will use all of that experience I gained in Washington and my work here in Rhode Island to connect with the key priorities of many people throughout District One.”
“This message resonated,” he added.
Mr. Amo will face Jerry Leonard, the former US Marine who won the Republican nomination on Tuesday, in the November 7 general election to decide who will serve out the remainder of Mr. Cicilline’s term.
The crowded primary race was a tumultuous one during a quiet political summer season, rocked by a series of scandals across the field and tensions between factions of the Democratic Party. With the lack of independent public polls and the large number of candidates dividing the vote, political observers said it was difficult to predict how the race would play out.
Aaron Regenberg, a former state lawmaker and progressive who garnered the support of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, was widely seen as having an edge over Mr. Amo in Tuesday’s election. He got about a quarter of the vote. After his loss, Mr. Regenberg plans to join Public Citizen, a progressive organization, as a climate policy advocate.
Mr. Amo started the race with little prominence throughout Rhode Island, but his campaign was backed by more than $600,000 in donations from individuals and major political action committees. Mr. Amo drew on his professional background, which includes his time serving former Gov. Gina Raimondo, now US Secretary of Commerce, in the state seat of Rhode Island, and his upbringing in the Ocean State.
“The main reason I’m running is because of my story,” he said in an interview last week. “I call it the Rhode Island story.”
Mr. Amo, 35, who grew up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, is the son of West African immigrants. He often describes his personal journey, from his days as a child chasing a Rhode Island Transit Authority bus to get to school, to a career working for two presidents in the Oval Office.
He made protecting Social Security and Medicare a top priority during his campaign, as well as addressing gun violence, promoting abortion rights and combating climate change.