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Rhode Island’s Man of the Year

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


In February of 2012, leading political scientists weighed in on David Cicilline’s 15% approval rating in a GoLocalProv story.

Cicilline was ranked as having the lowest rating of any member of Congress ever running for re-election and the lowest approval ranking of any elected official ever in Rhode Island.

Leading experts told GoLocalProv the following:

“We can’t think of an incumbent that has survived [with such low numbers,]” Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Report said. “I really think Cicilline's problems are largely driven but what's going on in Providence. Every time the Mayor has to do something, it reflects on him.”

According to Darrell West, Vice President and Director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C, it is possible that Cicilline has the lowest approval rating among any politician in Rhode Island’s history.

Big Rebound Nine Months Later

On Election Day, more than 108,000 voters in the 1st Congressional District voted for Cicilline and re-elected him to serve his second term in Congress.

Cicilline won 53% of the vote in a three-way race and easily defeated the popular Republican Brendan Doherty. Doherty garnered just 40% of the vote, despite spending a highly competitive $1.4 million.

The General election win was the second step in Cicilline’s amazing return from political flat-lining.

First Step to Redemption

The first was his win in the Democratic primary against businessman Anthony Gemma. Two years earlier, Gemma had run a credible race in the Democratic primary. With Cicilline looking extremely vulnerable due to the city of Providence’s financial collapse under his leadership and the perception that he mislead voters, Gemma looked well-positioned to unseat Cicilline.

But, Gemma ran a strange campaign focused on voter fraud rather than taking on Cicilline on the issue of Providence’s fiscal mismanagement, which current Mayor Angel Taveras widely criticized.

Gemma’s missteps lead Cicilline to a 62% to 30% win in the Democratic primary.

Cicilline’s apology and acknowledgement that he may have mislead them about the condition of Providence’s finances, combined with Gemma’s missteps, convinced voters to reconsider Cicilline. Then, Cicilline targeted Doherty as being another GOP vote for Speaker John Boehner. The voters in the heavily Democratic 1st Congressional District sparked by a Presidential year came home and returned Cicilline to the House.

Moving Forward

Now, Cicilline has the opportunity to make voters feel good about the outcome of the election and create a legacy of positive impact for Rhode Island.

No politician in modern history has ever been so low in polling and come back to victory – a decisive one at that.

For these reasons, David Cicilline is GoLocalProv’s selection as Rhode Island's Man of the Year.


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