Gemma campaign hires 8; buys radio ads, mailers, robocallsMay 7th, 2012 at 12:53 pm by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Anthony Gemma is spending money and staffing up as he embarks on a campaign to wrest the 1st Congressional District’s Democrat nomination from embattled incumbent David Cicilline.
Gemma sent a mailer to 40,000 potential Democratic primary voters in the district last month, the candidate told WPRI.com on Monday. Gemma confirmed he’s also bought a small number of radio commercials and taped a robocall message introducing himself to voters that went out to “a lot of people” last week.
The mailer describes Gemma as a Democrat in the same mold as John F. Kennedy, John Fogarty, Claiborne Pell and the late Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. It says he “helped turn a small family business into a $40 million, multi-state service corporation” and “helped create over 300 jobs in Rhode Island.”
The Gemma campaign has hired eight full-time staff members so far and has 25 active volunteers, he said, adding that he would hold a press conference “shortly” to introduce them publicly. They are focusing heavily on the “ground game,” he said, based on lessons he learned when he placed a distant second to Cicilline two years ago.
“I understand the ground game a lot more than I did the last election,” Gemma told WPRI.com. “I understand that the primary’s a lot different than the general election, something I learned from the last campaign quite a bit. The game is done a little bit differently and this campaign is going to be done a lot differently than the last one.”
On Sunday, Gemma attended U.S. Sen. Jack Reed’s annual breakfast fundraiser at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet, one of Rhode Island Democrats’ marquee events of the year. “What I’m doing now is quite a bit of really expensive, grass-roots, direct outreach to people,” he said, adding: “One of my strengths is building teams; the other is having a vision.”
Gemma entered the race carrying nearly $200,000 in debt from his 2010 campaign and is paying for publicity and staff “out of pocket at the moment,” he said. “I’ve begun to fundraise. Money’s not going to be a problem for this campaign. That’s not going to be an issue – at least, it’s not my issue.”
Gemma said he’s been “very encouraged” by the response he’s receiving from voters so far. “People are very angry at David Cicilline for what he’s done,” he said. “They want to help for various reasons – many of them help because they believe in me, but there are many people that are helping because they’re mad at him, and that’s the truth.” He added: “I’m not trying to stoke the fire, so to speak.”
Cicilline spokeswoman Nicole Kayner expressed confidence that the electorate will stick with her boss.
“Democratic primary voters will have a clear choice between a strong progressive congressman and an individual who never voted in a Democratic primary until his name was on the ballot,” Kayner told WPRI.com. “Mr. Gemma is an anti-choice, anti-worker, pro-Carcieri candidate who in 2010 ran an extremely nasty and vicious campaign.”
“David will continue fighting for seniors, students, women and the middle class,” she added, and he “believes that one of the biggest problems with Congress is that there are already way too many representatives that only know to scream and yell when they disagree.”
Gemma’s mailer did not reference Cicilline by name but describes the businessman as the only candidate who can hold the seat for the Democrats. “In one sense I’m an ordinary Rhode Islander with extraordinary concerns and frustrations,” he writes. “But in another sense I know myself to be a leader with the courage and determination to do what is right.”
• Related: Gemma targets Doherty, not Cicilline, as he jumps into primary (April 15)