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Cicilline, David (b. 1961)  
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In November 2010 David Cicilline won election to the United States House of Representatives in the First Congressional District of Rhode Island. Although he is a relative newcomer to Washington, he has a long record of public service.

Cicilline has worked as a public defender in the District of Columbia; he served four terms in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, and he completed eight years as mayor of Providence, the state capital and largest city of Rhode Island.

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The smallest state in the union, Rhode Island is culturally diverse, as is Cicilline's own family; his father John F. Cicilline, is a Catholic of Italian descent, and his mother, Sabra Cicilline, is Jewish.

As a child, David Cicilline, born in Providence on July 15, 1961, participated in the religious traditions of both his parents. He was baptized and became a communicant at St. Bartholomew's Roman Catholic church, but he also attended services at Temple Torat Yisrael. As an adult he has embraced the Jewish faith.

Cicilline took an interest in politics at an early age. As a young teen he attended town council meetings in Narragansett, the city to which his family had moved shortly after his birth, and he was appointed to a spot on a town advisory council. In high school he participated in a simulated legislature for state students and won election as its governor.

Cicilline attended Brown University in Providence, from which he graduated magna cum laude in 1983 with a degree in political science. He continued his studies at the Georgetown University law school, where he earned his degree in 1986.

In choosing to study law, Cicilline had followed in the footsteps of his father, but their careers would be markedly different: whereas the elder Cicilline was known for representing reputed Mafia figures, his son first worked as a public defender in the District of Columbia before coming home to Providence and establishing his own practice, in which he did criminal defense work but also took on civil rights cases.

David Cicilline made his first foray into politics in 1992, running for the Rhode Island Senate but losing in the primary. Two years later, however, he won election to the state House of Representatives.

Of the political neophyte, H. Philip West, Jr., Executive Director of Common Cause of Rhode Island, commented to David S. Broder of the Washington Post, "I was initially skeptical, because his father was a mob lawyer for a long time," but the young legislator proved to be a courageous champion of political and ethics reform—even standing up against others in the Democratic party—and earned a top ranking from West's group.

In 2002 Cicilline declared his candidacy for mayor of Providence, a city then suffering from a massive budget deficit, deteriorating infrastructure, and a widespread perception of public corruption. West stated to Broder that he "thought [Cicilline] was crazy" to oppose incumbent mayor Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci, Jr., an extremely charismatic figure, though one reputed to be unscrupulous.

Cianci's conviction on federal racketeering charges later that year led to a tough primary contest among Cicilline and three other contenders. Emerging as the victor, Cicilline won the general election with relative ease.

At the beginning of his candidacy Cicilline announced that he would not accept contributions from Providence city employees, a signal of his desire to work as a free agent for the good of the people and not the beneficiary of the entrenched political machine.

Once elected mayor, Cicilline faced daunting challenges, but he had a vision and a program that garnered a great deal of support from the citizenry by offering a welcome return to accountability. Charles Francis, Chairman of the Board of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, stated to Broder, "The mayor has been a breath of fresh air. He has brought stability to the city and confidence to city government."

Cicilline's initiatives as mayor included improving the public transit system, instituting reforms to the school system and demanding adequate state support for their implementation, and reducing unnecessary posts in city management. The city of Providence thrived under his administration. The downtown was revitalized, the crime rate declined, and, in 2006, the city earned a grade-A bond rating for the first time since the 1980s.

Among Cicilline's inherited problems was a labor dispute with city firefighters, who had not had a contract since 2001. In his initial run for mayor, Cicilline vowed to end the impasse but instead he found himself entangled in a morass of legal suits and arbitration hearings going back a decade involving wages, pensions, and employee contributions to health care costs.

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David Cicilline in 2010.
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