Feb. 11, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Sexual Orientation an Open Issue for Cicilline

But in California’s 45th district, Steve Pougnet, the openly gay mayor of Palm Springs, has been selected to participate in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” program. In his bid to unseat Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R), he finished the last quarter with more than $878,000 on hand compared with Bono Mack’s $1.2 million.

Back in Rhode Island, Cicilline is the best-funded of four Democrats running for Kennedy’s seat; he finished the last quarter with more than $900,000 in the bank and is widely considered the frontrunner to face Republican state Rep. John Loughlin in November.

Loughlin’s campaign declined to comment when asked to discuss Cicilline’s sexual orientation for this story. The issue has largely become something that is known but not often talked about publicly by the other candidates.

While Cicilline doesn’t hide his sexual orientation, it’s not something he usually confronts on the campaign trail. He said he’s running as a well-qualified mayor “who just happens to be gay.”

“It’s been reported pretty widely for eight years. It’s hard to imagine they don’t know,” Cicilline said of voters. “I think most voters do know, and they’ve concluded that it’s irrelevant. I think they care about what you’re going to do to bring new jobs to the state.”

But insiders think Cicilline could have problems in the state’s northern region, known as the Blackstone Valley, where the district’s population is largely centered in working-class neighborhoods.

“Come November, that race will be won and lost in the Blackstone Valley,” the veteran strategist said. “That’s where the people are. That’s where the votes are.”

Cicilline’s sexuality, however, may not be his greatest challenge.

The strategist noted that no Providence mayor has been elected to higher office in more than a half-century.

Cicilline has also been plagued by questions about his brother, a former attorney recently released from prison after serving time for extorting money from drug dealers. There was also a high-profile dispute with the city’s public-sector unions, not to mention the corruption scandal recently unearthed in the Providence Police Department.

And while Cicilline doesn’t believe his sexual orientation is a political liability, he said it is important to have a more representative government.

“To the extent that qualified good candidates who happen to be gay or lesbian are elected to positions of responsibility in government, and do a good job, I think that is good not only for them and the LGBT community, but good for society because good, qualified people are in office,” he said. “And I think anytime that happens, it is one more step toward equality.”

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