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Biden Democrat Gabe Amo Wins Rhode Island Special Election

An American Story— Biden Democratic Aide Gabe Amo Wins Rhode Island Congressional Democratic Primary September 10, 2023

Rhode Island—The Ocean State. The state at the 2020 Democratic Convention that bragged about its calamari. That state’s nickname and cuisine, notwithstanding, RI is best known to every U.S. elementary school student as one of the original 13 colonies that was founded by Roger Williams in 1636. Williams was a minister exiled from Massachusetts Bay Colony to the area of RI because he rightly challenged the religious intolerance of MA’s then Puritan leaders. RI became known as a state that welcomed people who practiced all religions. RI was home to the nation’s first synagogue, the Touro Synagogue, founded by Sephardic Jews, the descendants of Jews who had come to the New World to escape the Spanish and Portuguese Inquistions. President George Washington wrote to this congregation that the United States gives “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance (See Baird, Brousseau, & Rose, “Fifty States, Every Question Answered, Cohen & Cook 2022 Political Almanac).” On September 5, 2023, RI continued to show it welcomes Americans whose families come from all corners of the world. On that date, Gabe Amo won a decisive and historic victory in a special Democratic primary election that had 12 candidates on the ballot. That special election took place to pick the Democratic nominee in RI’s 1st Congressional District (CD) to replace Democrat David Cicilline (, Farzan, A., 9/05/23). Cicilline had resigned from Congress earlier this year to head the Rhode Island Foundation. Cicilline, himself, is a picture of RI’s diversity. He is Jewish and has a Jewish mother and an Italian Catholic father (Cohen & Cook 2022 Political Almanac, If special election primary winner Amo wins his general election race against his GOP rival Gerry Leonard, which in this heavily Democratic district is expected to happen, Amo will become the first person of color elected to represent RI in Congress. Rhode Island’s WPRI and the Associated Press (AP) called this race for Amo less than one hour after the polls had closed (, Farzan, 9/05/23).

After his victory, Amo stated to his cheering crowd, “I don’t have a lot of words. This primary election showed that Rhode Islanders believe in a state where one of their sons, the son of two West African immigrants from Ghana and Liberia…(can) receive the love and the investments of a community and go from serving the president of the United States, briefing in the Oval Office, to being the Democratic nominee for Congress in the 1st Congressional District. And it’s not lost on me that I stand on the shoulders of giants, of so many who (paved) the road before me… so I could stand here today.” When the race was called, Amo’s father, also named Gabriel Amo, jumped up and down joyously. Nominee Gabe Amo also wrapped his mother in a tight embrace before starting his speech ( Meet Gabe Amo.

Pawtucket, RI native Gabe Amo (35) graduated from Providence’s Moses Brown School. Amo was President of the Student Senate and received the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s Civic Leadership award. He was selected to participate in the United State’s Youth Program in Washington, D.C. (, McGowan, D., 2/22/21). Amo received a BA from MA’s Wheaton College where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude. At Wheaton, he was President of the Student Government Association ( He received a Truman Scholarship and a Marshall Scholarship to study comparative social policy at England’s Oxford Merton College. At Oxford, he obtained an MS degree (

While in college, Amo worked for Sheldon Whitehouse’s 2006 U.S. Senate campaign and volunteered for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign (, Lund, 5/19/11). Amo worked in the Obama White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. In this post, he served as a liaison to governors and other state officials. He then worked as a national political coordinator for the 2012 Obama re-election campaign, as well as the 2013 Obama Presidential Inauguration Committee (, “

Amo worked for RI Democratic State Governor Gina Raimondo, now Biden’s Secretary of Commerce, as Director of Public Engagement and Community Affairs. In that job, he served as her principal advisor on outreach to RI’s business, faith, and local government. He was Raimondo’s senior advisor on her 2018 re-election campaign (, McGowan, D., 2/22/21). Amo worked as a national states’ strategy and program advisor on the 2020 Biden-Harris campaign and served on the Biden transition team ( He joined the Biden administration where he served as a point person for local leaders to help implement Biden’s legislative efforts. Amo coordinated responses to national disasters and mass shootings. His work for the Biden administration was praised by Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the White House director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (Washington Post, Alfaro, M., 9/06/23).

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who held the 1st Congressional District (CD) seat before Cicilline, stumped for Amo in the final weeks of the campaign. Amo ran with the endorsement of the Congressional Black Caucus. Biden’s former chief of staff Ron Klain was additionally in Amo’s corner (Wash. Post, Alfaro, 9/06/23). The RI 1st CD covers the eastern half of that state, including parts of Providence with its Ivy League Brown University. Newport, home of a jazz festival hosted every summer, as well as the mansions of 19th Century industrial titans, lies in the 1st. Newport’s famous Touro Synagogue is also in this district (Cohen & Cook 2022 Almanac). Amo’s birthplace, Pawtucket, known as the place where the American Industrial Revolution started, as well as Bristol, Lincoln, Warren, and Woonsocket are included in the Ocean State 1st (, Cohen & Cook 2022).

On the campaign trail, Amo emphasized his parents’ immigrant backgrounds and their humble roots. His father owns a liquor store. His mother is a nurse. Amo talked about working for Gov. Raimondo and his experience in the Obama and Biden White Houses (, Farzan, 9/06/23). Working in these Democratic administrations is a strong plus in this ultra-“Blue” Cook PVI, Partisan Voting Index, D+12 1st (Cohen & Cook 2022). Till the end of this special election race, Amo was not considered the favorite. Former state representative Aaron Regunberg, who ran on a populist, anti-corporate message and was endorsed by VT’s Sen. Bernie Sanders and NY Congressmember AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was considered the front-runner (Farzan, However, in the final weeks of the race, Amo made a pitch to centrist Democrats who did not want to elect an anti-establishment candidate. He stated, “I’m the Democratic nominee right now, and I’m focused on how I reflect the values of the first Congressional district. Those are the values that I’m reflecting. From the beginning of this campaign I told my story. I said it in that first video that it was a Rhode Island story that, I think, resonated across a lot of different people and a lot of different groups here in our state (”

Joe Caiazzo, a Democratic strategist who has worked on numerous RI campaigns, said it all. Caiazzo argued that Amo’s pitch and White House background gave him a better shot at capturing those Rhode Islanders who are “hungry for a Biden Democrat (Wash. Post, Alfaro, 9/06/23).” And RI, one of the most Democrat states in presidential elections where Biden improved on Hillary’s 2016 totals, wanted a “Biden Democrat.” Despite what many people think, Biden’s “steady as she goes,” centrist progressive stands have many supporters in key Democratic areas. Caiazzo stated that RI voters also wanted someone “who would quickly fill Cillicine’s shoes (Wash. Post).” Amo fits that bill.

With 95% of the votes counted, “Biden Democrat” Gabe Amo defeated his closest rival Aaron Regunberg by 7.5 percentage points, 32.4%-24.9% (, 9/05/23). Turnout, in this special election, when few people were paying attention, was higher than expected (Farzen, Wash. Post, 9/06/23). Amo won every city and town in the district except for three, Central Falls, Woonsocket, and Providence. In Providence, Regunberg won by just 400 votes (Frazen,

As was previously stated, Amo, in his heavily painted “Blue” 1st, will now face GOPer Gerry Leonard in 11/2023, a former Marine. Leonard attacks “Bidenomics,” which he falsely claims has not helped ordinary Americans. He favors more limited government, the usual GOP party-line. He believes abortion should remain a state issue (AP & Translation: He disliked “Roe v. Wade” and would rather have local politicians try to attack the right-to-choice, as states like Alabama are presently doing. If turnout in the general election remains strong, Amo should rightfully clobber Leonard. Rhode Islanders must show by electing Amo in the general election that “Biden Democrats” are the key to victory, not just in that state, but also, throughout the nation. Again, congratulations, Gabe Amo!

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