A somewhat cryptic press advisory issued Thursday morning by Gemma’s otherwise quiet campaign announced he will hold a press conference next Wednesday at noon at his Providence headquarters to “discuss specifics regarding why his campaign hired a private investigation firm to look into voter fraud.”
“Mr. Gemma will also discuss how investigating voter fraud revealed other potential criminal actions by David Cicilline and his associates,” the statement continued. “The investigation has now attracted the attention of several federal authorities.” Gemma will be joined by his legal counsel at the event, the advisory said.
Cicilline campaign manager Eric Hyers quickly hit back. “If Anthony Gemma has something to say or an accusation to make he needs to say it now and show whatever proof he claims he has,” Hyers told WPRI.com. “This is a desperate and outrageous stunt; he ought to put up or shut up today.”
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha’s office declined to comment.
Shortly before the press advisory went out, Gemma apparently previewed it in a Twitter post: “Be prepared for breaking news that will have an immediate, stunning, game-changing impact on Rhode Island politics. Dark days soon will end.”
The advisory comes the same week embattled state Rep. Leo Medina leveled his own voter fraud charges during an interview on WPRO. In February, state Rep. Anastasia Williams told The New Republc she’d seen examples of voter fraud, too, singling out a large Hispanic man she said is nicknamed “El Macho.” Both Medina and Williams are Providence Democrats. Rhode Island has a new voter ID law taking effect this year.
Political observers have been mystified by the campaign being run by Gemma, who trailed Cicilline by four points in a May WPRI 12 poll. He’s purchased almost no advertising and made few high-profile public appearances as Cicilline, who beat him in 2010, continued to ramp up his campaigning. Gemma’s social media footprint has also been questioned.
Gemma and Cicilline will face off Aug. 28 in a televised debate on WPRI 12 ahead of the Sept. 11 primary.
Be prepared for breaking news that will have an immediate, stunning, game-changing impact on Rhode Island politics. It will make national headlines. Lives will be changed profoundly – and mostly for the better. Yes, the news will upset us and challenge us. It will require us to tap deep resources of personal strength and to be outraged by the manner in which we have been governed for years. But we are strong. And we are patriots who will realize that it is not our system of government that is corrupt, but only those who have abused the system in support of their hideous personal agendas. We will survive this, and emerge stronger than ever. And through it all, I will be there for you.
• Related: Anthony Gemma discloses more than $3M in personal wealth (Aug. 15)
Tim White contributed to this report. This post has been updated and expanded.