In a dramatic reversal of fortune after a bruising campaign that had many penning his premature political obit, Congressman David Cicilline today walloped Republican challenger Bredan Doherty by a surprisingly large margin of votes.
With 94 percent of the vote counted, Cicilline had 52.7 percent of the vote, compared with 41.1 percent for Doherty, and 6.1 percent for independent David Vogel.
A recent Channel 12 poll had Cicilline ahead of Doherty by just 1 percent, and Doherty and the National Republican Congressional Campaign rained down waves of sharp attack ads on the former Providence mayor-turned-freshman congressman.
But Cicilline, who has held elective office since winning an East Side state rep’s seat in 1994, has proven a very durable politician, living to fight another day (and win re-election) even after his inaccurate 2010 remark that Providence was in “excellent” financial condition. His 10 percent+ margin of victory represents a significant improvement over his 6 percent win over John Loughlin in 2010.
During a Democratic victory event at the Providence Biltmore, Cicilline offered this message to his critics:
“I think the voters have spoken. I hope people will respect the decision of the voters. I feel very humbled by the opportunity to represent this great district in Congress for the next two years, and I’m going to work hard every single day to fight for Rhode Island.”
The Democrat was aided by a disciplined rhetorical attack against DC Republicans, strong support among Latino voters, and a more experienced Democratic ground game. He says his message of aiding the middle class through Pell Grants, Medicare and Social Security also resonated with CD1 voters:
“Those are things that matter to Rhode Islanders and I think the more opportunity I had to make that case to Rhode Islanders the more they were willing to vote for me and understand I was going to go to Washington and protect the things and fight for the things that matter to them.”
Across town at the Providence Marriott, Doherty told my RIPR colleague Flo Jonic that he’s down with running for office. Whether that viewpoint changes with a bit of rest remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Gordon Fox, a friend and ally of Cicilline, repulsed an aggressive challenge by storyteller and author Mark Binder. Fox won the race on a 58 percent-42 percent margin (3,348 to 2,472 votes), and says he is confident about winning re-election as speaker in January.
The beleaguered Rhode Island GOP had another bad night. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman Jim Langevin were able to coast on the way to their respective second and seventh terms, cruising past Barry Hinckley and Michael Riley. But the GOP really got socked in legislative races. Early indications show the 10-member Republican caucus in the House will be down to six, and Bethany Moura was among the GOP senators going down to defeat.
Other big winners of the night included James Diossa, who won 59 percent of the vote in a five-way mayoral contest in Central Falls, followed by former police chief Joseph Moran. Diossa could be on the way to becoming the first Latino mayor of the predominantly Latino city when the second round of mayoral voting takes place December 11.
Another winner is West Warwick native Paul Tencher, who led the winning US Senate campaign of Democrat Joe Donnelly over Republican Richard Mourdock. The win seems likely to elevate Tencher’s political stock.
This post has been updated and expanded.