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R.I. congressional candidates weigh in on Israel, the economy, guns, and abortion

On the Rhode Island Report podcast, Republican Gerry Leonard Jr. and Democrat Gabe Amo also address whether former president Donald Trump violated the peaceful transfer of power

Republican Gerry W. Leonard Jr., left, and Democrat Gabe Amo, the candidates for Rhode Island's First Congressional District.Handout

PROVIDENCE — On the Rhode Island Report podcast, the candidates for Rhode Island’s First Congressional District seat spelled out their views on Israel, the House speakership, the US economy, an assault weapons ban, and a national abortion ban.

Republican Gerry W. Leonard Jr. and Democrat Gabe Amo came into the podcast studio separately to answer questions on some of those major issues. We then put their responses together so voters can easily compare and contrast as they decide who should replace Democrat David N. Cicilline, who stepped down June 1 to lead the Rhode Island Foundation.

Gerry W. Leonard Jr., the Republican candidate for Rhode Island's First Congressional District seat, talks to Boston Globe reporter Edward Fitzpatrick during the Rhode Island Report podcast.Megan Hall

Early voting began on Wednesday, and the special election is scheduled for Nov. 7.


Among other issues, Leonard and Amo weighed in on President Biden’s recent speech in Philadelphia in which he talked about “Bidenomics” and called for boosting public works spending and bolstering green energy.

Leonard said, “I don’t think the Inflation Reduction Act was an inflation reducer. I do think we pumped way too much money into our economy. That’s what’s caused this inflation. And I think we need to take some common sense approaches, figure out how to get inflation under control.” One way to control inflation is to “pursue an energy independence policy in the United States,” he said. “I think it produces a lot more jobs and gets our (Gross Domestic Product) up, which solves a lot of problems with our federal budget.”

Amo said, “We’ve got one of the lowest unemployment rates in our history, including here in Rhode Island. We have a manufacturing boom actually occurring in this country, in part because of one of our former governors (US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo) having a semiconductor investment in this country.” But investments such as rebuilding roads and bridges take time, he said. “Inflation is decreasing, but it’s not fast enough. Not everybody’s feeling it.”


Gabe Amo, the Democratic candidate for Rhode Island's First Congressional District seat, talks to Boston Globe reporter Edward Fitzpatrick during the Rhode Island Report podcast.Megan Hall

The candidates also answered the question that a 15-year-old named Quinn Mitchell recently asked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as he campaigned for president in New Hampshire: “Do you believe that former President Trump violated the peaceful transfer of power, a key principle of American democracy that we must uphold?”

Amo said, “Yes, he did. And encouraged what was an insurrection that we all watched from our living rooms.” He said he was working on the Biden-Harris transition and heard the Trump administration was reluctant to concede. “But then we what we witnessed was one of the saddest days in American history, and we should never repeat it. That’s why his campaign is an existential threat to our democracy. And anybody who cannot communicate clearly about that has invalidated their role of responsibility in making our government work.”

Leonard said that the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol “went well beyond protest” and those who injured Capitol Police officers should be held accountable. But he noted that Joe Biden did become president, and he said, “I know President Trump is facing a series of of court dates coming up again. Going back to the Constitution, he has every right to defend himself in front of a jury of his peers. And for me to take a look at what the outcome of that would be would be unfair, because I don’t have a crystal ball.”

To get the latest episode each week, follow Rhode Island Report podcast on Apple Podcasts and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at Follow him @FitzProv.