September 14, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
Gay House candidate wins in R.I.

A gay Rhode Island mayor on Tuesday trounced his competition in pursuit of the Democratic nomination for a U.S. House seat.

David Cicilline, mayor of Providence, won the Democratic primary by securing 37 percent of the vote in his bid to represent Rhode Island’s 1st congressional district and succeed retiring Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.).

Richard Luchette, spokesperson for the Cicilline campaign, said Cicilline’s win on Tuesday demonstrates voters want a candidate who will “fight for ordinary men and women by working hard to create new jobs” and would break “the connection between money and politics in Washington D.C.”

“These are the issues that we will continue talking about from now until Election Day,” Luchette said.

The win for Cicilline in the primary could set him up to become the fourth sitting openly gay member of Congress if he wins in November. Still, other out Democrats — Steve Pougnet in California and Ed Potosnak in New Jersey — are also seeking U.S. House seats this fall.

Cicilline’s opponents in the primary trailed him by double-digit points in the four-way race.

Anthony Gemma, a businessman, received 23 percent of the vote; David Segal, a Rhode Island State House member, received 20 percent; and William Lynch, a former head of the Rhode Island State Democratic Party, also won 20 percent of the vote.

The win for Cicilline on Tuesday means he’ll face in the general election John Loughlin, a former Rhode Island Assembly member and Army veteran.

Cicilline has the backing of national LGBT organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. Chuck Wolfe, CEO of the Victory Fund, praised Cicilline in a statement.

“Adding more authentic LGBT voices to Congress is a Victory Fund priority, and Mayor Cicilline’s win tonight puts us one giant step closer to doing just that,” Wolfe said. “We’re proud to have supported Mayor Cicilline throughout his political career, and thrilled about this historic victory.”

In a statement, Joe Solmonese, HRC’s president, said his organization is “thrilled” with Cicilline’s primary victory and looks forward “to working with him to ensure Rhode Island’s first district is represented by a fair-minded legislator.”

“He has proven himself as a state senator and strong mayor and will no doubt be an active and effective congressman in promoting equality for all people,” Solmonese said.

Running in a heavily Democratic district, Cicilline is favored to win in the general election. The most recent reports on the Federal Election Commission website show that as of the end of August, Cicilline had raised $1.36 million and has $446,000 in cash on hand. Comparatively, Loughlin has raised $470,000 and has $67,000 in cash on hand.

Dan Pinello, a gay government professor at the City University of New York, said Cicilline is in “pretty good standing” as he heads into the general election.

“Rhode Island is, of course, a traditionally very Democratic state, and Providence, as an urban center is traditionally Democratic,” Pinello said. “It would seem to me that he would be labeled the favorite at this point.”

The results for other non-incumbent gay candidates running for office were a mixed bag on Tuesday.

In New York, Harry Bronson, a small business owner, won the Democratic nomination to pursue a seat representing Rochester, N.Y., in the State Assembly.
A win in November would make him the sixth out member of the New York Legislature and the only out Assembly member from upstate New York.

However, Phil LaTessa, another gay small business owner, lost his bid for the Democratic nomination to represent Syracuse, N.Y., in the state Assembly.

In Massachusetts, lesbian Karen Payne, a former president of a local National Association for the Advanced of Colored People chapter, lost her bid for the Democratic nomination for a state House seat.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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