EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — State Rep. Gregg Amore kicked off his campaign for Rhode Island secretary of state on Wednesday, highlighting his career as a public school teacher and pledging to build confidence in the election system.

Amore, a 54-year-old East Providence Democrat, is currently serving his fifth term in the R.I. House of Representatives. He announced his campaign at the newly opened East Providence High School, where he has been a teacher and coach since 1989.

“Each day we read headlines about state legislatures proposing or passing laws that limit access to voting,” Amore told a crowd of over 100 supporters. “As a student and teacher of our nation’s history, I know that attempts both blatant and subtle to suppress the vote are in every chapter and verse of our nation’s history.”

But he said Rhode Island has taken a different approach, and urged that voting changes made during the pandemic become permanent.

“We know for a fact that early in-person voting and voting by mail are very popular across the political spectrum,” he said.

In his speech, the newly minted candidate emphasized the importance of free and fair elections, particularly in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s unfounded allegations that the 2020 presidential election results were fraudulent. He also noted that secretaries of state in some battleground states had to beat back efforts to overturn the results.

“The job requires a steady hand, the ability to set party politics aside, and withstand partisan pressure,” he said. “It requires the ability to communicate clearly to the public on how our elections are conducted and how they are certified.”

Quoting the 16th president, Amore said, “We certainly live in unsettled times, but I am ever optimistic that our politics can as Abraham Lincoln said, ‘reflect the better angels of our nature.'”

Rhode Island’s incumbent secretary of state, Democrat Nellie Gorbea, is term-limited and now running for governor. Amore called her “a tremendous secretary of state” and said he wanted to build on her work. He also told reporters he is comfortable with Rhode Island’s current voter ID law, enacted in 2011.

“I think the Democratic Party has shifted away from ‘never voter ID’ to ‘fair voter ID,'” he said.

Amore’s event drew a who’s who of current and former Rhode Island lawmakers, union leaders and other Democratic Party powerbrokers.

The speakers who introduced Amore emphasized his long record as an educator and passion for civics, as well as his attachment to his hometown. They included House Speaker Joe Shekarchi, state Sen. Val Lawson, state Reps. Katherine Kazarian and Karen Alzate, and fellow EPHS teacher Richard Martin.

“No one has more ‘Townie Pride’ than Gregg Amore,” said Shekarchi, whose predecessor Nick Mattiello was also on hand for the announcement.

Amore held a fundraiser at the Wannamoisett Country Club after the kickoff to collect campaign donations. He already had $63,000 in his campaign account as of June 30, according to his most recent R.I. Board of Elections filing. He told reporters his campaign plans to accept public matching funds.

No other candidates have officially announced campaigns for secretary of state so far, but last week R.I. Department of Business Regulation Director Liz Tanner told 12 News she is seriously considering whether to challenge Amore for the Democratic nomination.

“During the last six years I have had the unique opportunity to work closely with Rhode Island’s small businesses, providing guidance and assistance to thousands of business owners and their employees at one of the most difficult times in our state’s history,” Tanner said.

As secretary of state, Tanner said she would look to “continue this work while ensuring that every eligible Rhode Islander can participate in secure and well-run elections.”

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.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