Gabe Amo is on a path to become his state’s first person of color in Congress after Democrats nominated him for Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District on Tuesday.
“It is not lost on me that I stand on the shoulders of giants,” Amo said in his victory speech on Tuesday night. “Black, brown, women, so many people who have had the opportunity to pave a pathway so I could stand here today.”
Amo prevailed over nearly a dozen other Democrats with about 32 percent of the vote with over 90 percent of ballots counted, including a self-styled progressive who was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Throughout his campaign, Amo touted his time as a former Biden White House aide. He had the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus, Democrats Serve PAC, former White House chief of staff Ron Klain and former Rep. Patrick Kennedy.
It’s a sign that progressives’ star power is perhaps not what it once was, even in a safely blue seat like RI-01. Former Democratic Rep. David Cicilline vacated RI-01 earlier this year to run the Rhode Island Foundation, a philanthropic organization in the state.
Factions of the Democratic party fought over who should succeed Cicilline, who had helped lead the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Amo pulled ahead of former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg, who in the leadup to the election coalesced the support of progressive forces.
RI-01 covers Democratic strongholds of Providence, Newport and Bristol counties, which puts him on a path to an easy victory come the Nov. 7 general election when he faces Republican Gerry Leonard.
Other top contenders among the crowded field included Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, who was seen as the frontrunner early in the race, earning the support of prominent national groups like the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and EMILY’s List, and state Sen. Sandra Cano, who local labor unions threw their support behind. Cano and Matos came in third and fourth, respectively.
Matos’ campaign faltered as it spent months dealing with scandal over submitting hundreds of invalid signatures on her nominating papers. Regunberg’s campaign also faced controversy for being boosted by a super PAC run by his father-in-law after he criticized the role of money in politics. With those candidates embroiled in drama, it created an opening for a candidate like Amo.
Amo made history, but he wasn’t the only one hoping to do so. Half of the Democratic hopefuls are people of color, and four women were running for the post. Rhode Island has never elected a Democratic woman to Congress, and the current congressional delegation is all white men.
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