Gabe Amo just won the Democratic primary in RI's election. Here's what to know about him

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Former White House staffer Gabe Amo claimed a decisive and historic victory in the crowded Democratic primary in Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District early on Tuesday night. He'll compete for Rhode Island's open House seat against U.S. Marine Corps veteran Gerry Leonard in November's general Election.

"I don't have a lot of words," Amo, a 35-year-old Pawtucket native, told his cheering supporters at The Guild in Pawtucket after the primary. "This primary election showed that Rhode Islanders believe in a state where one of their sons, the son of two West African immigrants from Ghana and Liberia ... [can] receive the love and the investments of a community and go from serving the president of the United States, briefing in the Oval Office, to being the Democratic nominee for Congress in the 1st Congressional District."

Where is Gabe Amo from?

Gabe Amo is grew up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Where did Gabriel Amo go to school?

A graduate of the Moses Brown School, he went on to attend Wheaton College and then received a Marshall Scholarship to study public policy at Oxford University.

Gabe Amo's political background

Amo previously worked in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, under Obama, as a liaison to governors and state elected officials.

In between his Washington, D.C., stints, Amo returned to Rhode Island to serve as Raimondo's "director of public engagement and community affairs." In that role, Amo said, he was "Raimondo’s principal advisor on outreach to businesses and labor, faith groups, local government, grassroots organizations, and communities of color."

Gabe Amo hugs his mother Weady Socree upon entering his after election party.
Gabe Amo hugs his mother Weady Socree upon entering his after election party.

Who are his parents?

Amo's father, also named Gabriel Amo owns a liquor store. His mother is a nurse.

"My parents came to Rhode Island from Ghana and Liberia. My mom is a nurse at a nursing home. She was always working the double shift. My dad owns a small business. I know what it's like to come from a family that struggled to get by. When I was just 8 years old ... I helped my mom study for the citizenship test."

What did Gabe Amo do while working at the White House?

In his job at the White House, Amo said, "I worked with mayors across the country responding to some of our local communities' biggest challenges, helping communities sign up for affordable health care and prevent evictions to keep families in their homes.

According to his campaign website, Gabe returned to Washington after the Raimondo administration, "Most recently, Gabe served as the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Special Assistant to the President, working as President Biden’s principal liaison to mayors and local elected officials."

Will Gabe Amo be RI's first Black congressional representative?

If he goes on to win the general election as expected, Amo stands to be the first person of color elected to represent Rhode Island in Congress.

Who supports Gabe Amo?

Amo won every city and town in the district during the Democratic primary except for three: Central Falls, which went for Sandra Cano; Woonsocket, which went for hometown candidate Stephen Casey; and Providence, which Aaron Regunberg won by about 400 votes. Some of his strongest pockets of support were found in the wealthy communities of Barrington and Little Compton.

Amo also scored the endorsement of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC.

In the weeks leading up to the September primary, Amo made a compelling pitch to centrist Democrats, releasing an internal poll that showed that he was in second place after Regunberg.

Did Patrick Kennedy help Amo win the primary?

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who held the seat before Cicilline, stumped for Amo in the final weeks of the campaign.

Candidate Gabe Amo, along with staff, grabs lunch and talks with voters at Cafe Zara in East Providence.
Candidate Gabe Amo, along with staff, grabs lunch and talks with voters at Cafe Zara in East Providence.

We gave the CD1 special election candidates a quiz on the district. Here's how Gabe did.

  • Where in the district can you buy a coffee cabinet? And what is it? (10 points)

  • What does 'La Broa' refer to? (10 points)

  • Name two lighthouses in the district. (10 points)

  • What immigrant group has a tradition of constructing grape arbors? (10 points)

  • What is a chimi, and where can you get one? (10 points)

  • Two communities in the district were major ports in the slave trade. Name one. (10 points)

  • Where is the Cape Verdean Museum located? (10 points)

  • There are two places in the district where you can find a historic Looff carousel. Name one. (10 points)

Here's how Amo scored on the quiz: We gave the CD1 special election candidates a quiz on the district. Here's how they did.

Where does Gabe Amo stand on key political issues facing Rhode Island?

Below is an excerpt from a questionnaire we distributed to all the Democrats in the CD1 primary race. For the full story, read here: Where do Democrats in the CD1 Special Election stand on key issues? A complete guide

Below, you'll find Amo's written responses. Answers have been edited only to conform with AP style, and not for spelling or grammar. Additionally, each candidate was informed that they would have no more than 75 words to answer each question. In instances where candidates exceeded that limit, their responses have been truncated at the 75-word mark, as indicated by an ellipsis in brackets.

Should the U.S. government cancel all student loan debt, or should some Americans pay back what they owe?

Gabe Amo: I supported President Biden’s efforts to cancel $10,000 in federal student loan debt which was recently struck down by the Supreme Court. I would advocate to enact President Biden’s plan legislatively and would be open to canceling more than $10,000. We must cancel federal debt from predatory, for-profit institutions. Student loan debt holds back so many Americans from building wealth, buying a home, and growing or starting a small business.

Do you think the United States should try to limit the power and influence of China? If so, please describe the policies you would support to accomplish that.

Gabe Amo: I agree with President Biden that China and the United States should be economic competitors, not engaged in economic and political conflict. We should pursue diplomacy, especially on combating climate change, but we must limit their influence on industries relevant to our own national security priorities, like semiconductor, artificial Intelligence, and quantum computing sectors. We must stand firm in our defense of Taiwan and in our opposition to Beijing’s movement towards Vladimir Putin and Russia.

What Rhode Island projects would you fight for to receive federal dollars through appropriations in omnibus spending bills?

Gabe Amo: - Coastal resilience projects in communities like Barrington and Newport.- Expansion of workforce development and opportunities to place Rhode Island at the center of the clean energy supply chain, including the South Quay Marine Terminal in East Providence.- Additional funding to build out the Blackstone Valley National Park and protect and enhance the Blackstone Valley region- Public transit funding to close RIPTA shortfalls and improve our rail connection to Boston- Homelessness prevention funding for local providers

Gina Raimondo says the CHIPS Act will restore critical domestic computer chip manufacturing, while Bernie Sanders calls it corporate welfare. Who is right?

Candidate Gabe Amo greets his supporters after receiving election results.
Candidate Gabe Amo greets his supporters after receiving election results.

Gabe Amo: President Biden and his administration, including Secretary Raimondo. The CHIPS and Science Act has already led to an increase in domestic manufacturing investment and will strengthen our national security. There is no question that the CHIPS and Science Act will be one of President Biden’s lasting accomplishments. I am proud to have helped get the bill across the finish line and will work as a member of Congress to steer that funding to Rhode Island.

To fight climate change, should the U.S. enact policies, such as a carbon tax or bans on fossil fuel infrastructure, that raise the cost of oil and gas?

Gabe Amo: We must work to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and swiftly move towards renewable sources of energy. There are a range of factors that increase the cost of oil and gas. Ultimately, consumers will spend less money and use less energy as we build out our electric vehicle infrastructure, including a nationwide charging network, modernize our grid, and expand the production and use of alternative forms of energy like wind and solar.

Should Congress scale back environmental regulations to allow renewable energy infrastructure to be built faster?

Gabe Amo: We should not. We can protect our environment and move quickly without doing away with important regulations. I would look towards the appropriate agencies to direct and improve the regulatory process rather than forcing political intervention. There are investments in President Biden’s historic Inflation Reduction Act to accelerate the growth of renewable energy infrastructure. We need a congressperson who is laser-focused on defending that legislation and its transformational impact from being gutted by Republican leadership.

The U.S. continues to lead our peers around the world in terms of gun deaths and mass shootings. What country would you look to as a model for firearm legislation here and why?

Gabe Amo: I would look towards Australia. In 1996, there was a mass shooting in Port Arthur, Tasmania that killed 35 people. They immediately responded and banned semi-automatic weapons and passed stricter gun ownership rules, some of which, admittedly, would not pass constitutional muster in the United States. However, Australia’s swiftness is something we should mirror in the United States so that we finally put an end to the plague of gun violence in our communities.

Given your personal experience, which House committee assignment would you most desire? How would you use it to impact RI?

Gabe Amo: Obviously, I would love to be on Appropriations so that I can bring as many resources and jobs back to Rhode Island as possible. However, that would not be an option until I build up seniority. Realistically, I could join the Science, Space, and Technology Committee to invest in local jobs: at our federal labs, in agencies like NOAA, and research and development in critical industries in non-defense sectors.

What's one thing you'd like to see Congress do to address the housing crisis, or increase housing production?

Gabe Amo: Pass the elements of the Build Back Better proposal that were not included in the final Inflation Reduction Act, like massive investments in preserving our current public housing, building new rental units for extremely low income families, expanding rental assistance programs, and other programs to improve access to housing. I would incentivize zoning changes in communities and invest in housing-choice vouchers, known as Section 8, to make sure that they meet rising housing costs.

Is the Biden administration wrong to stop asylum seekers at the southern border?

Gabe Amo: The Biden Administration has made progress in relieving pressure at the border by creating a parole system for certain countries and establishing more outposts across the Americas to increase access to legal pathways. We need to provide more support to swiftly process people upon arrival. Additionally, I support giving migrants the ability to legally work once they reach the United States as a strategy to address the arrival of asylum seekers at the border.

Lastly, on a more fun note: If you could get any vanity plate, what would it say?

Gabe Amo: RI4EVR

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Who is Gabe Amo? A guide to RI's Democratic candidate for CD1