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Lenny Cioe: We will rebuild Rhode Island

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It would be easy to take my loss as a failure. But my campaign was always about more than just winning. I was just as invested in the process as the outcome. I wanted to show the people of my district that their vote mattered. That they could vote for compassion, safety, and progress. That politics aren’t just for career politicians, but for civic leaders who know and represent their communities.


Lenny Cioe is a registered nurse at Fatima Hospital who challenged Senate President Dominick Ruggerio in the Democratic Primary on September 8. Ruggerio won by 341 votes.

“While I lost the election on September 8 to Dominick Ruggerio by 341 votes, my fight—our fight—for a better Rhode Island is not over. Truly, it is just beginning. 

“I am a registered nurse at Fatima Hospital in North Providence, not a politician. When I decided to run against Senate President Dominick Ruggerio in October of 2019, I knew that I was going to be fighting an uphill battle. In the 35 years he has been in office, Ruggerio has only faced an opponent twice.  

“But however long the odds seemed, I knew taking on Ruggerio was worth it. I wanted my district to finally have another option on the ballot. It was time they could vote for someone who would prioritize the most vulnerable Rhode Islanders, not private interests and personal profit.

“While Dominick hid behind a massive campaign budget, high paid lawyers, and flashy billboards, I walked my district three times over. I knocked thousands of doors, and met thousands of my neighbors. I didn’t know if that was going to help me win. But I did know that door-knocking was a reflection of how I wanted to behave as an elected official: I wanted to be a senator who really knew his community. I wanted to build real relationships with the people who would trust me to represent them.


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“I knocked on the door of a woman off Mineral Spring Avenue in the pouring rain. She was struggling with cancer and diabetes. Her Medicare coverage, even when supplemented by private insurance, wouldn’t provide her with all the insulin medication she needed, and out-of-pocket expenses for her cancer treatments were through the roof. 

“It was conversations like those that made me keep going. I saw each and every day, with each door I knocked, the magnitude of the challenges faced by so many of my neighbors. Those big problems demand big solutions. 

“When COVID-19 hit, I adapted. I started knocking doors with a mask on. I made wellness calls to voters to make sure they were staying safe. So many people were losing their jobs, their health insurance, and their housing. I wanted them to know that I was someone they could rely on, especially in a crisis. I kept knocking doors right up to September 8.

“Ruggerio won anyway.

“It would be easy to take my loss as a failure. But my campaign was always about more than just winning. I was just as invested in the process as the outcome. I wanted to show the people of my district that their vote mattered. That they could vote for compassion, safety, and progress. That politics aren’t just for career politicians, but for civic leaders who know and represent their communities.

“In my Senate District 4, 3,605 people cast ballots, far exceeding voter turnout in previous Democratic Primary elections. Why? Because finally, for the first time in decades, I gave them another option. I gave them hope.

“I may have lost the election, but I have not lost hope. In coming this close to unseating him, I have shown that Ruggerio is vulnerable. The eight members of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative who won on September 8, and countless other progressives across the state, have shown us that Rhode Islanders are ready for change. Ruggerio and the good old boys club can’t stay in power forever. 

“What do we need for more of us to be victorious in the future? We need campaign finance restrictions so no more elections can be bought. We need mass voter registration so that all our voices are heard.

“And more than anything, we need to keep fighting. The progressive victories we saw last week show us that Rhode Island is ready for massive change.

“You haven’t heard the last from me yet. This is just the beginning.”