NewsNational NewsScripps News


Rhode Island could elect its first Black member of Congress

Rhode Island, a predominantly White state, could elect former Biden administration staffer Gabe Amo to serve in the House of Representatives.
Rhode Island could elect its first Black member of Congress
Posted at 8:52 AM, Nov 03, 2023

House races are generally held during even-numbered years, but there is one race Tuesday due to a resignation. 

Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District is open after Rep. David Cicilline resigned to become president of the Rhode Island Foundation. The race to fill out the rest of Cicilline's term is between Democrat Gabe Amo and Republican Gerry Leonard. 

In an October poll conducted by the Pell Center at Salve Regina University, Amo was leading Leonard 46%-35% among likely voters who said they were undecided. 

Amo survived a tight primary, edging out Aaron Regunberg, a former state representative, for the win.

If the polling holds, Amo would become the first Black person to represent Rhode Island in Congress. Polling showed that Amo leads Leonard among Black voters 62-12. Amo also leads 50-27 among Hispanics, 45-39 among White voters, and 46-8 among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 

SEE MORE: Some Minnesota voters want Trump off the ballot for 2024

Prior to his campaign, Amo served as a staff assistant in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs as the Biden administration's liaison for lieutenant governors, state treasurers and secretaries of state. It's likely he would be a staunch advocate for President Biden's policies in Congress.

“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, could receive the love and the investments of a community and go from serving the president of United States and briefing him in the Oval Office to being the Democratic nominee for Congress in the 1st Congressional District,” Amo said when he won the Democratic nomination. "And it is not lost on me that I stand on the shoulders of giants, of so many who paved the road before me — Black, brown, women — so many people who have had the opportunity to pave a pathway so I could stand here today."

Leonard is hoping to overcome recent polling and history to win. A Republican has not won a House seat in Rhode Island since 1994. According to Leonard's campaign biography, he had a 30-year career in the US Marine Corps with multiple overseas deployments. 

According to the Providence Journal, Leonard largely avoids abortion and gun control debates, but told the outlet he does not support Democratic efforts to ban assault weapons, nor would he support codifying abortion rights nationwide.

There are currently two vacancies in the House. There will be a special election later in November to complete a term in Utah.

Trending stories at