Cicilline & Gemma Battle in Second Debate
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
Pushing accusations of rampant voter fraud to the side, Democratic Congressional candidate Anthony Gemma focused on incumbent Congressman David Cicilline’s his handling Providence’s finances over the course of his eight-year tenure as Mayor during an hour-long debate on WPRO Tuesday evening.
The second debate between the two candidates ahead of next Tuesday’s primary was more subdued than a fiery debate that took place at Rhode Island College last week, but the two still found time to take potshots at one another, with Gemma imploring Cicilline to expand on his record as Mayor of Providence and Cicilline jabbing Gemma for contributing to the campaign of Republican Governor Don Carcieri and for flip-flopping on his stance on abortion.
The two Democrats have taken similar positions on most federal issues (Medicare, nuclear weapons in Iran, school vouchers, women’s rights, voter ID laws and growing the economy through manufacturing), but Gemma has argued that Cicilline misled voters during his 2010 run for Congress and that he does not deserve to be re-elected.
Gemma pressed Cicillne to explain why he prevented former internal auditor James Lombardi from accessing information about the city’s finances in 2010 (Cicilline denies these claims) and argued that the Congressman’s Make it in America Block grant is similar to the Providence Economic Development Partnership (PEDP), which has come under fire in recent months.
When Cicilline was asked how he would characterize the city’s finance at the end of his time as Mayor, he said “improved but threatened.”
Cicilline placed part of the blame on the city’s troubles on former Mayor Buddy Cianci, who was sentenced to federal prison shortly before Cicilline was elected Mayor in 2002. Cicilline argues he improved the city’s finances, restored confidence in government and reduced crime, but he also said more than $40 million in cuts in state aid hurt the city.
The two each took turns taking the Republican Party to task on women’s rights, but while Cicilline again said he would vote for Gemma if he were to lose next Tuesday, Gemma said he would not vote for Cicilline. According to a WPRI poll released last week, more than 50 percent of Gemma’s supporters will side with Republican candidate Brendan Doherty if Cicilline wins the primary.
Gemma spoke very little about the voter fraud accusations he leveled at the Congressman two weeks ago during a news conference. Gemma has claimed Cicilline and his aides have orchestrated an extensive voter fraud scheme dating back to 2002, a charge Cicilline has denied.
The two Democrats will be joined by Democrat Chris Young during Thursday’s Channel 10 debate.