EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — With the House speaker standing behind him and no opponents in sight, state Representative Gregg M. Amore, an East Providence Democrat, entered the 2022 race for secretary of state on Wednesday.
The current secretary of state, Nellie M. Gorbea, is term-limited and running for governor. And while former state Senator Gayle L. Goldin, a Providence Democrat, was considered a potential candidate for secretary of state, she stepped down on Aug. 17 to join the US Labor Department’s Women’s Bureau.
Amore, 54, who has been in the House since 2013, enters the race with $63,345 in his campaign account, according to reports filed with the state Board of Elections. And he enters the race with support from arguably the most powerful state politician, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat.
Amore announced his candidacy in front of the newly constructed East Providence High School, where he taught government, history and civic education for 26 years. He is now East Providence’s athletic director.
“As a government, history and civics teacher, I understand the importance of ensuring an open, accessible, safe and secure electoral process – and as your secretary of state, this will be my top priority,” Amore said in prepared remarks. “In 2020, we saw a record number of votes cast in a safe, secure manner. This is how it should be – and I will work to expand on this progress.”
He said he played a role in passing a budget article containing school construction funding and sponsored the bill placing the East Providence High School construction project on the ballot.
“I am particularly proud of the successful school construction bond legislation – which culminated in the overwhelming passage of a statewide bond referendum and many accompanying local bond questions, including the one to build the new East Providence High School,” Amore said. “This is a shining example of civic engagement leading to good policy and tremendous public support.”
Amore now serves as deputy majority leader and chair of the House Finance Subcommittee on Education.
Shekarchi said, “During a time in our history when voting rights are coming under attack across our country, Gregg is exactly who we need to stand strong and ensure all Rhode Islanders have a fair shot to vote.”
House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian, a fellow East Providence Democrat, said Amore backed her “Let RI Vote Act,” aimed at lowering barriers to using mail ballots, expanding early voting, and allowing same-day voter registration. That legislation did not become law in the legislative session that ended July 1.
But Kazarian said, “I sought out Gregg to co-sponsor this bill with me because of his deep knowledge of civics and his ability to navigate state government. Not only is Gregg extremely qualified to ensure our electoral process is safe, secure, and available to everyone who wants to participate, but he’s also committed to helping ensure business owners can easily start and maintain a business in Rhode Island.”
Representative Karen Alzate, a Pawtucket Democrat who chairs the Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus, also noted that Amore backed the continuation of expanded voting access through the “Let RI Vote” legislation.
“I represent a district that benefited greatly from this expanded access,” Alzate said, “and I’m supporting him because I know he’ll make it a top priority to push forward this proposal to expand voting, and make certain that it’s done in a way that keeps our elections safe.”
After the announcement, Amore was asked about the failure of the Let RI Vote Act to pass in the last session. “We are going to try to get it through this year,” he said. “We have broad support. We are trying to convince our colleagues who are hesitant about it. And I think we have a fair chance of getting a good portion of that bill through this year.”
Amore said he would support a federal voting rights proposal made by Senator Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat, including a federal voter ID provision.
“I think the Democratic Party has shifted away from ‘Never voter ID’ to ‘Fair voter ID’ – to making sure it’s accessible, to making sure there are no restrictions, making sure people know where they have to go, when the have to vote,” he said.
Amore noted Rhode Island has a voter ID law that allows people to submit a provisional ballot if, for example, they show up without the required ID. He said he would like to expand the types of ID allowed to include utility bills. And he said he has not seen any evidence that Rhode Island’s voter ID law “is restrictive to any group.”
Amore said Gorbea has been a “tremendous” secretary of state.
“My goal is to really focus, as you heard here today, on civic engagement, on voter registration, on convincing folks that this is the best election process in the world,” he said. “It’s dangerous to throw out accusations of fraud and question the integrity of elections because that cuts at the foundation of our democracy.”
While some Republicans remain distrustful and claim elections are rigged, Amore said, “We have to convince them one at a time with as much information as we can to show them.”
Rhode Island Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Cienki the GOP does not have a declared candidate for secretary of state yet. But, she said, “I’m sure we will have somebody. People are talking about it. We will see who takes the plunge.”
The secretary of state’s race is important, Cienki said. “The secretary of state is someone who has to pay attention to elections but also deals with lobbyists and business licences,” she noted.