WOONSOCKET, R.I. (AP) -- The Democratic candidates in Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District spent Sunday making a final push for votes ahead of Tuesday's primary, with incumbent Rep. David Cicilline bringing in former Congressman Patrick Kennedy to help him make his case.
Meanwhile, his challenger, Anthony Gemma, visited festivals to appeal to voters one-on-one.
Cicilline succeeded the eight-term Kennedy in Congress two years ago after serving eight years as mayor of Providence, and is banking on Kennedy's popularity helping secure support this election season. In recent days, a Cicilline TV ad quotes Kennedy praising Cicilline, who he says has "consistently stood up for Rhode Island."
The winner of Tuesday's primary will face Brendan Doherty, former head of the state police, on Nov. 6.
At John F. Kennedy Manor in Woonsocket, a senior housing complex, named for Kennedy's uncle, Cicilline and Kennedy looked toward the general election, telling residents that Democrats are fighting to maintain benefits such as Medicare and education while Republicans want to cut those and other important social programs.
"This election is about real choice," Cicilline said before going on to blast the budget proposed by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, now Mitt Romney's running mate in the presidential race.
Kennedy acknowledged to The Associated Press that if Cicilline wins, he faces a tight race with Doherty, and said there's no question the district could vote Republican, as it did before he was first elected.
"We've got to fight for every vote. I hope people recognize that a lot is on the line," he said. "I know the anxiety and anger that's out there about government, and I think people would be cutting off their nose to spite their face to vote against David. He's going to vote the right way for Rhode Island."
Cicilline has been harshly criticized by Gemma, Doherty and others for what they say is misleading voters about the state of Providence's finances when he ran for Congress in 2010. Cicilline said in a debate that year that city finances were in excellent condition, but that turned out not to be the case.
The current mayor, fellow Democrat Angel Taveras, called the financial situation a "Category 5 hurricane" shortly after he took office. Cicilline has since apologized for his word choice and said he was "overly optimistic" about the city's health.
The race in recent weeks took a bitter and bizarre turn, when Gemma, a businessman making his second run for office after being soundly defeated by Cicilline in the 2010 primary, made a series of unproven and thinly based allegations that Cicilline was involved in voter fraud and other illegal activities. He said he spent $40,000 on a private investigation into Cicilline.
Pauline Clancy, 64, who lives at Kennedy Manor, said she plans to vote for Cicilline because she is not interested in dwelling on the past. She said Cicilline has done a good job and is accessible to his constituents, adding that she was turned off by Gemma when he recently visited there.
"He talked about the fraud. He talked about how much money he spent to investigate him. I don't care. What are you going to do for me?" she said. "I don't like dirty politics. Speak on the issues."
It has been an expensive campaign for the incumbent. Cicilline has spent $1.2 million on the campaign as of Aug. 22, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Gemma, who has largely self-funded his campaign, spent about $290,000 as of that date.
Doherty has spent about $500,000 and has more than $600,000 going into the fall campaign to Cicilline's $483,000.
At a Portuguese festival in Pawtucket, Gemma shook hands and slapped people on the back as he handed out fliers that highlight his record as a job creator. He built his family's plumbing company, Gem Plumbing, into the most recognizable plumbing company in the state. He also co-founded a breast cancer charity, an accomplishment also highlighted in his flier.
"I will restore honor, integrity, and competence to Congress from RI's 1st District!" it reads.
Maria Rego, 63, of Bristol, said she planned to vote for Gemma. While she likes both candidates, her top issue is jobs. Rhode Island's 10.8 percent unemployment rate is second-highest in the country.
"I'm going to try to give him an opportunity. Maybe he will do better," she said.
Kennedy was schedule to make more appearances with Cicilline on Monday and said he was willing to do anything needed to help his campaign. He promised the residents at Kennedy Manor he'd bring back his infant son, Owen, when he comes to campaign in November.
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