David Cicilline is 10 years older and carries the wear-and-tear of much more political mileage than when he emerged in a four-way 2002 Democratic primary as the new sensation of Providence politics. Yet Cicilline – battered by harsh headlines since not long after taking his congressional seat in January 2011 — seemed just as affirmed by his decisive victory tonight over businessman Anthony Gemma (62 to 31 percent, in unofficial results).
Gemma ran a harsh, slipshod campaign, smirking like a misbehaving teenager when asked during a televised debate to say something positive about his opponent. Gemma’s political immaturity (he cited Cicilline’s necktie) was telling; so too was Cicilline’s inability to put into one different word his unfortunate 2010 description of Providence’s supposedly “excellent” fiscal condition.
Republican Brendan Doherty, the former superintendent of the Ocean State’s hallowed state police, will have plenty to say about that; he’s staging a news conference in Riverside at 10 am Wednesday to highlight, as RIPR reported, Cicilline’s 10 “most serious lies.”
Just as predictably, Cicilline used his refreshed demeanor to focus a sharp attack on Republicans in Congress. Speaking during his victory celebration at the Blaze restaurant on Providence’s East Side, the Democrat thanked his supporters:
“I appreciate the support of everyone who voted on behalf of the middle class tonight, and I look forward to speaking with Rhode Island Democrats, independents and Republicans about just what’s at stake in this election.”
Cicilline called the election a choice between “moving forward” or returning to “the same old failed Republican policies that created this problem in the first place.”
“Now I know Brendan Doherty. I’ve known him for many years. I worked with him when he worked for Governor Carcieri as the head of the state police. I think he’s a good man. But he’s made it clear that he stands with Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the Washington Republicans who are pushing a radical agenda that will move our country backwards.”
He also warned of the GOP’s impact on people in Rhode Island:
“End the guarantee of Medicare, roll back rights for women’s reproductive health, provide subsidies for big oil, undermine the middle class. And I think what Rhode Islanders are ultimately going to decide is, who do they trust to go to Washington and fight for them and fight for their families.”
So it begins: the trust card.
Cicilline was an underdog when he jumped into mayor’s race in 2002. Low poll ratings have led many to prematurely write his political obituary this time around.
Gemma never proved himself to be a real threat to Cicilline, although Doherty hovers as a more credible challenger.
The November election looms as a compelling test case of whether a damaged politician can rebuild his support instead of falling by the wayside.