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Mercedes Yanora

Twelve candidates running in special Democratic primary for Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District

Twelve candidates are running in the Sept. 5, 2023, Democratic special primary for Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District. The candidate with the most votes will advance to the Nov. 7, 2023, general election to fill the seat previously held by Rep. David Cicilline (D). Cicilline resigned from the House on June 1, 2023.

The field of 12 Democratic primary candidates includes Rhode Island’s lieutenant governor, three sitting state legislators, one local official, two former state representatives, and a former White House aide. Sabina Matos, Aaron Regunberg, Gabe Amo, and Sandra Cano have received the most media attention and endorsements.

Edward Fitzpatrick, writing for The Boston Globesaid, “In a traditional congressional race, such support [endorsements] might be merely routine. But political observers say that in a low-turnout special election such as this one, when fewer than 10,000 votes could decide the winner, these types of endorsements carry extra value, especially when they come with on-the-ground support.” While most candidates have similar platforms, according to The Cook Political Report, the race “could ripen into a traditional Democratic primary battle between Matos, the mainstream Democrat, and Regunberg, the progressive.”

Matos is Rhode Island’s lieutenant governor. She is the only statewide elected official in the race. Matos said, “I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and continue fighting for the things that matter: addressing the cost of housing, reproductive freedom, working to solve our climate crisis, and protecting our democracy.” Matos received endorsements from Emily’s List, the Latino Victory Fund, and Elect Democratic Women. Emily’s List said, “Emily’s List has been proud to support Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos since her run for Providence City Council in 2010, and we have been thrilled with all she has accomplished for Rhode Islanders in the years since. Matos has been a champion for women, youth, and working families, and she has been a strong supporter of reproductive freedom throughout her time in elected office.”

Regunberg represented Rhode Island House of Representatives District 4 from 2015 to 2018. Regunberg said, “I know that, together, our communities can take on these dangerous forces – the gun industry, fossil fuel companies, Big Pharma, and their Republican allies – and win. That’s why I’m running for Congress.” Regunberg received endorsements from U.S. Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). Khanna said, “Aaron Regunberg is the only candidate in this race with a record of standing up to Big Pharma and the health insurance industry to fight for Medicare for All. He’s the only candidate with a record of taking on Big Oil to fight for a livable future.” 

Amo was a special assistant to President Joe Biden (D) and deputy director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Amo said, “As Rhode Island’s next member of Congress, I know that my experience makes me prepared to deliver for you and your family – from day one. I am running for Congress because I still maintain a strong sense of optimism that if we come together, each of us can have a tomorrow that is better than today.” The Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorsed Amo. U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), the PAC’s chairman, said, “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.”

Cano has represented Rhode Island State Senate District 8 since 2018. Cano said, “I am running for Congress because I care deeply about helping people. I will always carry with me the voices of my community, and advocate on behalf of working people. Because it’s going to take one of us – to make a difference for all of us.” Cano received endorsements from the National Education Association Rhode Island and United Nurses & Allied Professionals. Lynn Blais, the latter union’s president, said, “We trust Sandra to work with state and federal leaders to address the critical issues facing our members and all health care workers. … issues like the critical nursing shortage, short staffing, hospital funding and Medicaid reimbursement, future pandemic preparation, mental health and developmental disability funding.”

Stephanie Beauté, Walter Berbrick, Don Carlson, Stephen Casey, Spencer Dickinson, John Goncalves, Ana Quezada, and Allen Waters are also running in the primary.

During the 2022 general election for this district, The Cook Political ReportInside Elections, and Sabato’s Crystal Ball rated the district Solid DemocraticDaily Kos calculated what the results of the 2020 presidential election in this district would have been following redistricting. Joe Biden (D) would have received 63.8% of the vote in this district and Donald Trump (R) would have received 34.7%.

As of July 25, 2023, four special elections have been called for the 118th Congress. From the 113th Congress to the 117th Congress, 67 special elections were held.Additional reading:

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