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Gerry Leonard wins GOP primary in R.I.’s First Congressional District

He faces an uphill battle in the Nov. 7 general election in Rhode Island’s more left-leaning congressional district

Gerry W. Leonard Jr., is the Republican nominee for Rhode Island's First Congressional District seat.Handout

PROVIDENCE — Gerry W. Leonard Jr., the Republican party’s endorsed candidate, has won the GOP nomination for Rhode Island’s First Congressional District, the Associated Press projects.

With 98 percent of polling places reporting, Leonard had 75.8 percent of the vote, while former Middletown town councilor Terri Flynn had 24.2 percent of the vote, according to the state Board of Elections.

“Tonight, was an emphatic victory for our campaign but more importantly, tonight was a resounding victory for the people of Rhode Island who are tired of partisan politics, political extremism, and the divisiveness that threatens our republic,” Leonard said. “As a Marine, I took an oath to protect and serve. As your next member of Congress I will continue that service.”

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Leonard said his campaign will not focus on partisan political agendas. “While talking heads and political operatives seek to divide, my mission is to unite Rhode Islanders no matter their political persuasion,” he said. “In D.C., my mission is clear: Put Rhode Islanders first and stop extremism from both sides of the aisle.”

Rhode Island Republican Party Chairman Joe Powers congratulated Leonard and Niyoka Powell, the Republican candidate in state Senate District 1.

“This November, Rhode Islanders will have an opportunity to elect newcomers to Washington, D.C., and Smith Hill,” Powers said. “Now, more than ever, Rhode Islanders deserve leaders who will put the needs of working families ahead of special interests.”

For too long, entrenched career politicians have left Rhode Island working families behind, Powers said. “It is time we elect leaders that represent our communities and will fight to bring much-needed relief and common-sense solutions to the Ocean State and the course correction it so desperately needs,” he said.

The congressional special election is being held following the resignation of David N. Cicilline, who left Congress earlier this year to lead the Rhode Island Foundation.

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Leonard faces an uphill battle against the Democratic nominee Gabe Amo in the Nov. 7 general election in a deep blue district that hasn’t elected a Republican since 1992.

The left-leaning district comprises roughly the eastern half of Rhode Island, including much of the urban core, East Bay coastal communities and Aquidneck Island.

No Republican has come within 10 percentage points of defeating a Democrat in the First District since former state representative John Loughlin, who lost to Cicilline by 6 percentage points in 2010. A Republican hasn’t represented the First District since Ronald Machtley, who served three terms between 1989 and 1995 before running unsuccessfully for governor.

Leonard, a Jamestown resident who retired as a colonel after 30 years in the US Marine Corps, was endorsed by the Rhode Island Republican Party, House Minority Leader Michael W. Chippendale, and Senate Minority Leader Jessica de la Cruz.

This story has been updated.



Steph Machado can be reached at steph.machado@globe.com. Follow her @StephMachado. Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him @FitzProv.