PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Local Rhode Island Democratic Party leaders delivered multiple upsets when they voted to make their endorsements for the 2022 election on Tuesday night.
The R.I. Association of Democratic City and Town Chairs snubbed two sitting officeholders in making their picks: Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea won the group’s endorsement for governor over incumbent Dan McKee, and state Rep. Deb Ruggiero won the endorsement for lieutenant governor over incumbent Sabina Matos.
In another upset, the municipal party chairs endorsed Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor for general treasurer, even though Pryor had only kicked off his campaign hours earlier — handing a defeat to former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, who’s been running for months.
The results were less surprising in the 2nd Congressional District primary, where the clear frontrunner — General Treasurer Seth Magaziner — was endorsed over five rival Democrats. The group also backed Congressman David Cicilline and Attorney General Peter Neronha for re-election, as well as state Rep. Gregg Amore in the primary for secretary of state.
The endorsement votes were confirmed by Pam Lauria, the association’s vice chair. “The entire association will be behind whoever wins the primary and will work hard to get Democrats elected come November,” she said.
A 12 News/Roger Williams University poll released last week showed McKee and Gorbea neck and neck in the primary for governor, at 25% and 23%, respectively. The other three Democratic candidates — Matt Brown, Helena Foulkes and Luis Daniel Muñoz — were in single-digits.
“I’m proud to have the support of the women and men who work so hard at the ground level to build and strengthen our party every day,” Gorbea said in a statement. “I am grateful for their trust. Together we will win this race and keep Rhode Island blue.”
The 12 News/RWU poll found Matos with a wider edge in the primary for lieutenant governor, leading Ruggiero 21% to 13%. A third Democrat, Cynthia Mendes, was right behind at 12%. A fourth, former state Rep. Larry Valencia, jumped in after the survey was finalized.
Ruggiero said she was “honored and humbled” by the endorsement. “They represent Democratic leaders across the state,” she said. “So grateful they embrace my vision of putting the office of lieutenant governor to work for the Rhode Island people.”
Pryor described receiving the endorsement as “a terrific and energizing vote of confidence.”
“If elected Treasurer, I will work intensively to build Rhode Island’s economic momentum and strengthen our financial footing,” he said. “Our team is excited to bring our vision for the treasurer’s office to each of our 39 cities and towns and we look forward to working with our Democratic town chairs to ensure we elect Democrats up and down the ballot.”
Diossa acknowledged he was “disappointed” that the chairs voted to endorse Pryor, but dismissed them as “a small, unrepresentative group” and accused Pryor of “working insider politics.”
“I’m proud of the support I’ve received from around our state,” Diossa said in a statement. “The swell of endorsements for my candidacy from state legislators and mayors – who truly represent our communities – says just that.”
It remains unclear whether the Rhode Island Democratic State Committee will vote to make formal endorsements in any of the contested primary races.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook