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17 more people apply to become next lieutenant governor of Rhode Island

Politics - Government

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – At least 17 more people have applied to become the next lieutenant governor of Rhode Island, including a high school senior and a former Cranston mayoral candidate who famously campaigned dressed as a hot dog.

McKee, who could become Rhode Island governor as soon as this week, released the newest names of people seeking to replace him on Friday evening. That brings the total active applicant pool to 75 people so far, according to his office. (Some individuals have withdrawn their applications.)

The newest batch of jobseekers – who have applied to take the state’s No. 2 job without being elected – come from a variety of backgrounds, including the military, manufacturing, education and public service.

At least one applicant said he’s still in secondary school, a senior at Cumberland High School, while another – Adam Carbone – touted his recent run for Cranston mayor, which attracted headlines for his comical approach. Carbone, who often appeared publicly in a hot-dog suit, argued his “lightheartedness, humor and energy” inspired more young people to get engaged in the political process.

“It was very uplifting and fun for people who were sick of the same old same old and people needed to laugh during the sadness of 2020,” Carbone wrote in his application to McKee.

“You and I together will be the next Obi-wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker,” he added, referencing the Star Wars films.

Carbone’s application, while submitted in all seriousness, underscored how McKee’s highly unusual approach of finding a replacement for himself has been a source of amusement for observers. The lieutenant governor, who will ascend to the state’s top job once Gov. Gina Raimondo is confirmed as U.S. commerce secretary, solicited applications from anybody interested in taking over his position – a job that’s usually filled by voters at the ballot box.

The prospect of gaining such a high-ranking position without having to collect signatures, file paperwork, raise money or campaign has spurred dozens of people to apply, including current and former politicians, business executives and community leaders.

The newest group of applicants includes some political newcomers, such as Bryan Gordon, who has a military background and said he wants to get involved in public office because he’s “embarrassed about the current state of our government and the focus of our elected officials,” along with the “apparent bias of the media and vitriol on social media platforms.”

There are also some familiar names, including Rep. Robert Phillips, D-Woonsocket, who argued he would “work extremely well” with McKee. Sav Rebecchi, who mounted several campaigns against former Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, said his long-ago dinner-table discussions with former Gov. John Pastore while dating Pastore’s daughter inspired him to toss his hat in the ring.

Applicants from the private sector included John Partridge, a well-known attorney from Partridge, Snow & Hahn LLP in Providence, who touted his experience in business, charity and public affairs.

“I have no further ambitions with regard to public office but believe I could be of assistance to you and to the people of the state of Rhode Island,” he wrote in a letter to McKee.

McKee, who initially refused to disclose the applicants, quickly changed his mind after Target 12 filed a public-records complaint. He agreed to release all related documents on an ongoing basis.

An initial application period was later extended indefinitely, sparking some confusion among jobseekers. At least two people sent their applications to Target 12 last week, expressing frustration with the process and seeking guidance on how to submit the necessary documents to McKee.

The position of lieutenant governor includes a nearly $123,000 annual salary and a budget of roughly $1 million. But it has little official responsibility, and is no longer tied to the state Senate the way it is in many other states. Still, McKee’s impending looming ascent underscores its importance and potential power.

McKee, who’s said his top priority after becoming governor is responding the coronavirus pandemic, hasn’t given much away in terms of who he likes among the applicants so far. But he has said he wants someone who works well with him. Unlike many other states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island’s lieutenant governor doesn’t run on the same ticket with the governor – which is something McKee would like to change. McKee and Raimondo have had a frosty relationship while serving together in office and they continue to butt heads.

During a recent interview with 12 News, the Cumberland Democrat said he’d like to choose someone who sees eye-to-eye with him on issues related to small business, education, “equity justice” and health policy.

“There are certainly people who are going to be more agreeable in terms of my feelings based on those things,” he said.

McKee is expected to pick his successor at some point after becoming governor, although he hasn’t committed to a specific timeline. His office says he will explain more about the process once he takes over as governor.

The public process has also spurred outside groups to begin putting pressure on McKee to pick their preferred candidates.

The head of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a national advocacy group, issued an open letter to McKee last week urging him to choose former state Sen. Donna Nesselbush, D-Pawtucket, saying he has “the opportunity to make history by appointing Rhode Island‘s first, openly gay statewide officeholder.”

And on Friday, Emily’s List leader Stephanie Schriock and philanthropist Barbara Lee issued a joint statement telling McKee he should appoint a woman to the No. 2 job.

“When Governor Raimondo is confirmed, Rhode Island will have only one woman in statewide office,” Schriock and Lee said. “We are eager for Lt. Gov. McKee to commit to diverse leadership for Rhode Island — starting with his choice for the next lieutenant governor.”

The newest applicants include:  

  • Judith Abate 
  • Mark Aubrey
  • Adam Carbone
  • Brandon Fernandes
  • Thomas Goggin
  • Bryan Gordon
  • Jordan Horowitz
  • Rebecca Florence-McLaughlin
  • Michael Nolette
  • John Partridge
  • Robert Phillips
  • Saverio Rebecchi
  • William Rives
  • Paul Rochford
  • Kayla Rogers
  • Thomas Shields
  • Tom Suita

People who already applied include:

  • Robert Albanese
  • Dana Amore
  • Ray Berberick
  • Elizabeth Beretta-Perik
  • James Black
  • Edward Brady
  • Maria Bucci
  • John Bushee
  • John Carlevale, Sr.
  • Dylan Conley
  • Caswell Cooke
  • Daniel Cooke
  • Marco Cross
  • Christopher Curran
  • Michelle David
  • T.J. Del Santo
  • Andrew Demosthenous
  • Michael DeRobbio
  • Grace Diaz
  • James Diossa
  • Louis DiPalma
  • Shirley Francis-Fraser
  • Joanne Giannini
  • Jared Goodwin
  • Alan Gustafson
  • William Guthrie
  • Jake Hall
  • Robert Hamel
  • Jeffery Hutton
  • David Iwuc
  • Paul Kluk
  • Robert Lafleur
  • Jason Lavimodiere
  • Ted LeBlond
  • Tracy Loignon
  • Michael Mancuso
  • Mathew Mannix
  • Ray Mathieu
  • Sabina Matos
  • Kyle McCurdy
  • Rachael McIntosh
  • Timothy Meyers
  • Donna Nesselbush
  • Camille Nixon
  • Keith Oliveira
  • Michael Payette
  • Lisa Pelosi
  • Michael Pisaturo
  • Riley Rancourt
  • Lisa Ranglin
  • Aaron Regunberg
  • Jonathan Riccitelli
  • Spencer Rickert
  • Michael Riley
  • Christopher Rock
  • Peter Russo
  • Matthew Santos
  • Donald Sherman
  • Stuart Spitalnic
  • Christopher Stanley
  • Anastasia Williams

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Ted Nesi contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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