Rhode Island May Elect Its First Black Congressman

Gabe Abo is up against GOP challenger Gerry Leonard
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 7, 2023 12:48 PM CST
Rhode Island May Elect Its First Black Congressman
Gabe Amo, Rhode Island Democratic candidate for the US House, speaks during a campaign stop at a cafe Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in Providence, R.I.   (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Rhode Island voters could make history Tuesday by electing the state's first Black representative to Congress or return the seat last held by Republicans in the 1990s to a GOP candidate. Democrat Gabe Amo and Republican Gerry Leonard are vying for Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District seat, per the AP. The winner will fill the office left vacant when former Democratic Rep. David Cicilline stepped down this summer to become president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation. Details on both:

Amo, 35, grew up in Pawtucket as the son of Ghanaian and Liberian immigrants. He emerged victorious from a crowded Democratic field in the September primary, claiming more than 32% of the vote. The former White House aide served in the Obama and Biden administrations, most recently as deputy director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Amo said he would fight against what he described as "extremist" Republican attempts to slash funding for Social Security and Medicare, work to legalize abortion rights nationwide, and support legislation at the federal level to combat climate change. He also said he would push to ban assault-style firearms, support funding for research into gun violence prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and implement universal background checks.

Leonard, a Marine veteran and political newcomer, is hoping to reclaim the seat for the GOP in the heavily Democratic state. The last Republican to represent the district was Ron Machtley, who served from 1989-1995. Leonard has said he believes Americans know how to live their lives better than bureaucrats and professional politicians do. He has criticized "Bidenomics," saying Democratic President Joe Biden's economic plan hasn't helped ordinary citizens, and said he favors a more limited government. Leonard also said he believes states should be responsible for making laws on abortion, in line with the US Supreme Court's ruling last year that overturned constitutional protections for abortion established in Roe v. Wade.

(More Rhode Island stories.)

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