Now it Gets Interesting

Democratic Congressional candidate Anthony Gemma's accusations of voter fraud by incumbent Congressman David Cicilline have been met with a great deal of skepticism by the Rhode Island media and the state's political elite. He's done little to substantiate them, after all.

The appearance yesterday, on talk radio, of the woman he'd claimed was holed up in her attic with a weapon - so scared of the Cicilline machine - probably didn't help his case. Indeed, the Providence Journal treated her story skeptically in today's edition.

But the paper also wrote of another former Cicilline volunteer, Enerolisa Escobar, who went on record with a tale not so easily dismissed - a story of Cicilline's 2002 mayoral campaign paying people to impersonate voters unlikely to show up at the polls.

When Gemma originally made his voter fraud accusations, at a wild press conference last week, he declined to provide Escobar's name or those of other former Cicilline volunteers who, he claimed, had made sworn statements about voter fraud in Cicilline's campaigns. He said he had to protect the volunteers - and the integrity of any criminal investigation.

Now that the Escobar story is out, with her name attached, will it have an impact on a Democratic electorate that - according to WPRI's recently released poll - was prepared to hand Cicilline a comfortable victory over Gemma? If it isn't enough to put Gemma over the top, will it play in a general election contest between Cicilline and Republican Brendan Doherty? Or did the circus-like atmosphere of Gemma's press conference guarantee that Escobar's public avowal, no matter how credible, would have little impact?

One wonders how that press conference might have played - how the trajectory of the story might have differed - if Gemma had put Escobar front-and-center at the outset. 

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