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Gabe Amo elected first Black Rhode Islander in Congress

The 35-year-old Democrat, the son of African immigrants, will now represent his co-religionists in the most Catholic state in the country.

U.S. Rep.-elect Gabe Amo of Rhode Island on November 7 at The Guild in Pawtucket after winning Rhode Island’s 1st congressional district seat. (Kris Craig/Providence Journal via AP)

Gabe Amo has been elected the first Black U.S. congressperson from Rhode Island, one of several Democrat wins in midterm elections across the country this week.

The 35-year-old second-generation immigrant and former White House aide defeated his Republican opponent, Gerry Leonard Jr., in the special election with nearly 65% of the vote for the state’s 1st congressional district. The seat had been vacant since the June resignation of seven-term incumbent David Cicilline.

Amo’s triumph followed his upset win in the Democratic primary this September, making him the shoo-in for the seat, which has gone blue in every election since 1994.

“Thank you, Rhode Island for putting your trust in me,” Amo posted on social media following the win.

“This is just the beginning of a partnership between me and the people of the First District. Onward!”

Born to Ghanaian and Liberian parents in Rhode Island, Amo has been on the path to politics since his early years, serving in various youth civic programs before volunteering on several political campaigns while in college at Wheaton in Massachusetts.

Though he has never before served in elected office, Amo’s experience as a political strategist is extensive.

His work on Barack Obama’s successful 2008 presidential campaign was followed by a position in the White House as a liaison to state officials, and he served on the trail again during the president’s re-election run. He later worked in the administration of Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo before returning to national politics for Joe Biden’s first campaign against Donald Trump.

Prior to his run for the Rhode Island congressional seat, Amo served in the Biden White House as the special assistant and deputy director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

In his own campaign, Amo ran on a policy platform including gun control, economic security, climate change, and access to abortion. He also leaned on his connections to high-powered officials in Washington and in his home state.

“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,” his official campaign website reads.

Set to represent the nation’s most Catholic state, long associated with Irish and Italian immigrants, Amo himself was also raised in the faith, attending Mass with his father as a child at St. Charles Catholic Church in Providence.

As congressman-elect, Amo is the first new Black Catholic in Congress since 2017. Upon his swearing-in ceremony next week in Washington, he will be one of two, joining Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York.

Amo will become the 60th member of the Congressional Black Caucus, a new high for a single Congress. Congratulations arrived early from the current CBC chair, Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada, who marked the occasion on social media Tuesday evening.

Former president Obama sent congratulations online and via phone, noting on Twitter/X the latest success of his White House alums.

“As we head into 2024, let’s keep organizing, keep voting, and keep making our voices heard,” he wrote on Wednesday.

Amo responded in kind, thanking the retired chief—and fellow African immigrant descendant—for his “inspiration to so many.”

“In Congress, I hope to continue your public service legacy and the work of countless Obama alums to bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice.”

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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