There is a new dawn on the horizon for people of color in Rhode Island after Gabe Amo secured a significant victory in the 11-way Democratic race for the state’s open 1st Congressional District seat.
This former White House aide, who entered the race as an underdog, is the son of Ghanaian and Liberian immigrants. Amo’s triumph makes him poised to become a prominent representative of Rhode Island’s diverse communities of color.
According to Providence College Political Science Professor Adam Myers, the outcome of the recent election holds great importance. The win symbolizes representation for communities of color at the highest levels of government, which has been lacking in Rhode Island.
Notably, the state has never elected a Democratic woman to Congress, and its current Congressional delegation comprises exclusively of white men, except for a brief period from 1981 when Republican Claudine Schneider represented the 2nd Congressional District, according to Rhode Island Current.
What makes Amo’s win historic is that he faced off against a diverse field of candidates, with half of his rivals hailing from communities of color. This included Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic; Pawtucket Sen. Sandra Cano, an immigrant from Colombia; Providence State Senator Ana Quezada, also an immigrant from the Dominican Republic; Providence City Councilman John Gonçalves, who is the son of an immigrant from Cabo Verde; and Stephanie Beauté, the daughter of a Haitian immigrant.
According to Professor Myers, electing a Latino or African-American candidate to Congress from Rhode Island is not only significant locally but also sends a broader message. It emphasizes the state’s racial and ethnic diversity to those outside Rhode Island, highlighting that it is indeed a diverse and multicultural state.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau suggests that Rhode Island has experienced a significant increase in its Latino population, which surged by nearly 40% between 2010 and 2022, now comprising 17.6% of the state’s total population. Furthermore, in Providence County, Latinos were responsible for nearly all of the population growth from 2010 to 2020, as reported by the Pew Research Center in February.
Additionally, American Community Survey estimates show that Rhode Island’s Black population also grew substantially, increasing by nearly 30%, from 73,967 individuals in 2010 to 95,695 in 2021. These demographic shifts underscore the state’s growing diversity.
Black Lives Matter Rhode Island PAC Director Harrison Tuttle pointed out that while sending a person of color to Congress is seen as a milestone for diversity in Rhode Island, the focus should ultimately be on policy rather than identity in elections.
There has been groundswell support following the announcement of Amo’s victory with many key stakeholders expressing excitement about working with him.
If elected, Amo said he would address some of the major needs of this country including gun violence, Social Security and climate crisis.