Today, United Nurses and Allied Professionals, the state’s largest health care workers union, will endorse state Senator Sandra Cano in Rhode Island’s First Congressional District race.
And the Congressional Black Caucus PAC will back former White House aide Gabe Amo in the race.
Both hope to replace David N. Cicilline, who stepped down June 1 to lead the Rhode Island Foundation.
In a traditional congressional race, such support might be merely routine. But political observers say that in a low-turnout special election such as this one, when fewer than 10,000 votes could decide the winner, these types of endorsements carry extra value, especially when they come with on-the-ground support.
That’s especially true now that the Rhode Island Democratic Party has announced that it will not endorse a candidate in the field of 34 candidates that includes 21 Democrats. And the Rhode Island AFL-CIO is also unlikely to endorse because a two-thirds majority is required to back a candidate, and the individual union groups under its umbrella favor multiple candidates.
And the value of endorsements has been underscored by the unusual number of candidates who are issuing statements sniping at opponents over endorsements they didn’t receive.
”The most important endorsements in what may be a low-turnout election are the endorsements that put boots on the ground, especially on Election Day,” Providence College political science professor Tony Affigne said. “Money is also important, so that endorsements which also involve significant campaign contributions can help front-runners lock down their position or help lesser-known candidates become competitive.”
Political observers view Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos and former state representative J. Aaron Regunberg as the top-tier candidates in the race, and they have racked up significant endorsements of their own. But today’s endorsements go to two candidates who remain within striking distance in the second tier.
United Nurses and Allied Professionals has more than 5,500 Rhode Island members.
”The union plans to run a comprehensive member-to-member Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort,” their statement said, “including direct mail, phone banking, door-to-door canvassing and early voting efforts in support of Senator Cano’s campaign.”
UNAP President Lynn Blais said that ever since Cano was elected, “she has been a champion for the issues that matter to our members and has always been there for us when we needed her.”
Cano, who was born in Colombia and immigrated to the United States at age 16, is a former Pawtucket School Committee and City Council member and the first Latina to chair the Senate Education Committee.
”We trust Sandra to work with state and federal leaders to address the critical issues facing our members and all health care workers,” Blais said, “issues like the critical nursing shortage, short staffing, hospital funding and Medicaid reimbursement, future pandemic preparation, mental health and developmental disability funding,” among others.
Meanwhile, the Congressional Black Caucus PAC is endorsing Amo, a Pawtucket native and son of Ghanaian and Liberian immigrants, who served in the Obama and Biden administrations.
“At this moment in our history, when so many of our rights and freedoms are under attack, we need strong, effective leaders like Gabe in Congress,” said US Representative Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat who chairs the PAC. “Gabe will stand up to extreme MAGA Republicans and work to get things done for Rhode Islanders: pass common sense gun safety legislation, protect Social Security and Medicare, and protect a woman’s right to choose.”
The CBCPAC is the political arm of one of the most influential caucuses in Congress. It has previously endorsed House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, assistant Leader Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, and Representative Steven Horsford, the Nevada Democrat who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus.
The Amo campaign said, “This endorsement speaks to the incredible support from people who have seen Gabe’s work up-close.”
This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, links to interesting stories, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.