PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Congressional Black Caucus PAC on Thursday endorsed Democrat Gabe Amo in the crowded primary to replace David Cicilline, giving the first-time candidate his biggest endorsement in the race to date.
The Congressional Black Caucus is one of the most influential Democratic Party groups in Washington, as well as a powerful bloc on Capitol Hill. The PAC — a separate entity from the caucus itself — spent nearly $13 million in the last election cycle.
“At this moment in our history, when so many of our rights and freedoms are under attack, we need strong, effective leaders like Gabe in Congress,” said New York Congressman Gregory Meeks, the PAC’s chairman, in a statement.
“Gabe will stand up to extreme MAGA Republicans and work to get things done for Rhode Islanders: pass common-sense gun safety legislation, protect Social Security and Medicare, and protect a woman’s right to choose,” Meeks continued. “We look forward to supporting Gabe’s campaign and ensuring that he is elected to the U.S. Congress.”
Amo left a job in the Biden White House earlier this year to enter the 1st Congressional District special election, which could see up to 21 Democrats on the ballot for the Sept. 5 primary. He ranked second in fundraising among the candidates for the second quarter, taking in over $460,000, according to his campaign.
“The leaders nationally who have supported me know that I can contribute to this fight and be effective from day one,” Amo told 12 News, noting that former White House chief of staff Ron Klain has repeatedly expressed support for his candidacy, as well.
Amo is one of multiple 1st District candidates who would be the first person of color to represent Rhode Island in Congress. “I’m honored at that possibility of being a Black congressperson from Rhode Island,” he said. “But I’m not here to make history. I’m here to make a difference.”
One of Amo’s opponents, Stephanie Beauté, tweeted after the announcement: “Of all the endorsements I could earn in this race, the @CBCPAC’s was the one I coveted. Congratulations, @gabeamo, on this distinction.”
A spokesperson for Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, who is generally regarded as the frontrunner in the primary, acknowledged she also sought the Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorsement but declined further comment.
It remains unclear whether the PAC is prepared to spend a significant amount of money to bolster Amo’s candidacy.
Matos and another Democrat, former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg, have both received support on Capitol Hill from other quarters.
Matos has the backing of the Elect Democratic Women PAC, a group led by Florida Congresswoman Lori Frankel, as well as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC. Regunberg has been endorsed by three progressive House members: Jamie Raskin, Ro Khanna and Jan Schakowsky.
Other 1st District candidates also announced new support on Thursday.
State Sen. Sandra Cano touted an endorsement from the United Nurses and Allied Professionals union, which her campaign labeled the first “major” endorsement by organized labor in the race. Regunberg has been endorsed by other unions.
“Since Senator Cano was elected to the State Senate, she has been a champion for the issues that matter to our members and has always been there for us when we needed her,” Lynn Blais, UNAP’s president, said in a statement.
The union said it “plans to run a comprehensive member-to-member Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort, including direct mail, phone banking, door-to-door canvassing and early voting efforts, in support of Senator Cano’s campaign.”
But the announcement drew a protest from UNAP Local 5098 treasurer Bill Deware, who is supporting Regunberg and suggested machinations by union leadership.
“As a longtime member and activist in UNAP, and the treasurer of my local, I was incredibly disappointed at the decision by UNAP’s leadership to orchestrate this vote on a day when many local presidents were absent,” Deware said in a statement.
“Aaron Regunberg was there for us when we went out on strike — he walked the picket line with us every day,” he said. “I know I and many of my brothers and sisters in the union will be strongly supporting Aaron come September.”
(Cano’s campaign has hired UNAP’s longtime P.R. firm, Checkmate Consulting Group, which was founded by Brad Dufault, the son of former R.I. Democratic Party Chairman Guy Dufault.)
Matos issued a news release saying she’s been endorsed by the Her Bold Move PAC, an organization that works to elect women to offices which historically have been held by men.
“She has been a remarkable and fearless trailblazer in her public service and, if elected, she would become the first Democratic woman and first person of color elected to Congress in Rhode Island’s history,” said Her Bold Move founder Jordan Zaslow. “We are eager to see her shatter those important glass ceilings.”
Closer to home, Barrington Town Council President Carl Kustell said he’s endorsing Jamestown businessman Don Carlson for the seat. He plans to join Carlson for a campaign canvassing kickoff on Saturday.
“Don’s unmatched professional background, leadership skills, and exemplary character will yield results for Rhode Island in the form of renewable energy infrastructure, good-paying jobs, and strong support for our schools,” Kustell said.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.
Alexandra Leslie contributed to this report.