Former U.S. Rep. David Cicilline put Rhode Island in a precarious position when he left office months after winning re-election to take another, more lucrative job. The result is an important federal …
Former U.S. Rep. David Cicilline put Rhode Island in a precarious position when he left office months after winning re-election to take another, more lucrative job. The result is an important federal post being filled by an off-cycle, special election that is under the radar for most voters.
Complicating matters is a vast field of 14 candidates, most of whom had very little name recognition until a few months ago — and probably still don’t for a majority of voters. Twelve candidates will appear on the Democratic Primary ballot less than a week from now, and two on the Republican Primary ballot.
This is an important election at an important time. Congressman Seth Magaziner is now the senior member of Rhode Island’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives, and he has been on the job for less than a year. To help voters sort through this crowded field, we spent time evaluating each of the Democratic candidates and invited four of them to meet with our editorial board. We chose the four based on our belief that they were both qualified and electable.
We met with Don Carlson, the Jamestown investor who was considered a viable candidate until a few days ago. Carlson has an impressive and diverse background, with full command of the issues, and he’s a great communicator. However, a WPRI 12 investigation into his past damaged his campaign, and he formally withdrew from the race on Sunday.
We met with Walter Berbrick, a retired Navy officer and professor at the Naval War College in Newport. Berbrick is a lifelong public servant who has served both overseas and in Washington, D.C. He has energy and great ideas, and he would fight for the right things, including a better future for the environment and this country.
We met with Sandra Cano, the state senator from Pawtucket who chairs the Senate Education Committee. Cano has a great story to tell about immigrating to America, learning English, completing higher education and winning multiple elections to serve on her school committee and city council, before making a name for herself in the General Assembly. Cano is a naturally optimistic and passionate individual, with a pragmatic side that wants to get things done. She is as impressive as anyone we met, and we expect she will be a leader in this state for many years.
Finally, we met with Gabe Amo, the candidate we are endorsing in the Congressional District 1 Democratic Primary. Amo has an impressive story to tell as well. His parents were immigrants from Ghana and Liberia who met in Pawtucket and started a family. Amo is one of eight siblings who grew up without wealth and privilege. Today his father owns a liquor store in Providence, and his mother is a nurse working in nursing homes.
Amo graduated from Moses Brown, then Wheaton College, before receiving a scholarship to study policy at Oxford.
He has spent most of his adult life in the political arena, serving on multiple campaigns and working for two presidents (Obama and Biden) and one governor, Gina Raimondo. Until leaving his post to run this campaign, Amo was Deputy Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Special Assistant to President Joe Biden. He spent most of his time as the president’s liaison to the nation’s mayors and elected officials, but his most important job was “problem-solver.”
Amo was a leader in the implementation of Covid policy and stimulus funding across the country. He figured out how to move Monkeypox vaccine from one part of the country to another. He negotiated with Republican politicians, convincing them to support the president’s stimulus bills.
Amo’s command of the issues, knowledge of the political arena, and experiences in both government and leadership are outstanding. Beyond that, he is a likable, well-spoken and polished communicator, with a practical sense of the world. He is not likely to get stuck in an ideological stalemate if a compromise is best for the nation, or Rhode Island.
This district and all of Rhode Island would be served well by several of the candidates in this race, but we put Amo at the top of that list.
(Note: Though he will appear on the ballot, Don Carlson formally withdrew from the race. He was still an active candidate when we recorded this interview.)