PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Democrat Gabe Amo has won the special election for Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District, holding the seat for his party and making history as the first Black person to represent the state in Congress.
Amo, a 35-year-old former White House staffer, defeated Republican Gerry Leonard, a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer and political newcomer. Amo is expected to be sworn in by the end of next week.
“Thank you to the countless elected officials and volunteers and activists and people who keep our politics full of action, activism, and purpose-driven,” Amo said in his victory speech. “It is so important that you are here because the work that we do together starts tonight.”
Watch: Amo’s victory speech (Story continues below.)
The special election was triggered last February when Congressman David Cicilline announced he would step down to become CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation. Before Cicilline’s election in 2010, Democrat Patrick Kennedy held the seat for 16 years.
Amo, a Pawtucket native and the son of immigrants from West Africa, had never sought elected office before. But he earned a surprisingly easy primary victory against a crowded field of rival Democrats by touting his experience working for President Biden, President Obama and former Gov. Gina Raimondo.
“When I was 8 years old and helping my mother study for the citizenship test, I never could’ve imagined that I would go with her to cast her ballot to vote for her son for the United States Congress,” Amo added during his speech.
The special election was only to finish the rest of Cicilline’s unexpired term, so Amo will be up for reelection again next year.
Watch: Gerry Leonard’s concession speech