‘Let’s do it’: Gorbea kicks off gov campaign nearly 16 months before primary


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Newly minted gubernatorial candidate Nellie Gorbea said Monday she decided to launch her campaign 16 months before the 2022 primary in part so she could stop dancing around the question.

“I’m kind of one of these people who, what you see is what you get, and I hate the cloak-and-dagger part of politics that sometimes happens,” Gorbea told 12 News. “People kept asking me, ‘Are you going to run? Are you going to run?’ And finally I said, you know what — yeah, I am. Let’s go. Let’s do it.”

Gorbea, a 53-year-old North Kingstown resident, made her candidacy official on Sunday evening when her campaign website was updated with a YouTube announcement video in English and Spanish.

“Rhode Island is at a pivotal moment in its history,” she said Monday. “We have an opportunity as we could come out of this pandemic — which is not going to be just this year but in the following years — to be able to transform the way government happens, to make sure that our local economy is one that’s just and equitable, to make sure that education and housing and climate change are all addressed.”

While the two-term secretary of state is the first high-profile Democrat to formally jump into the 2022 race, she won’t be the last.

Gov. Dan McKee — now running as an incumbent after taking over from Gina Raimondo in March — plans to seek a full term. General Treasurer Seth Magaziner is all but certain to run, and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has also been putting the pieces in place for a bid. (Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz, who placed fifth in the 2018 election as an independent, is running in the Democratic primary, as well.)

Speaking to reporters on Monday, McKee brushed off Gorbea’s announcement, making clear he is in no hurry to formally launch his own campaign.

“She’s in campaign mode,” McKee said. “I don’t want to be in campaign mode. I want to be working for the people in the state of Rhode Island right now and putting that effort in.”

12 News political analyst Joe Fleming said Raimondo’s decision to join President Biden’s cabinet has transformed McKee’s chances, since he will now have the publicity and fundraising advantages that come from incumbency rather than trying to win a promotion out of the lieutenant governor’s office.

“Now he becomes the favorite,” Fleming said of McKee.

The timing of Gorbea’s announcement — in the spring of the year before the election — is unusually early for Rhode Island. The last time the governor’s office was open, in 2014, major candidates like Raimondo and Angel Taveras waited until late 2013 to make it official.

“I think in this case she feels she had to announce early,” Fleming said, noting that she has less campaign money on hand than Magaziner or Elorza, and that McKee’s previously weak fundraising will now be enhanced by his status as governor.

“I think this will give her the opportunity to raise the money nationally,” Fleming said. “You’re not going to raise enough money in the state of Rhode Island to run for governor.” The early start could also help her lock down support among rank-and-file Democrats across the state, he said.

It’s unclear when Magaziner or Elorza will announce their campaigns if they do decide to run, though the treasurer told 12 News earlier this month he expected to do so soon. So far no Republicans have indicated they plan to seek the governor’s office.

Gorbea indicated she will emphasize her policies as secretary of state in making her case to voters. She cited efforts to streamline business regulations, expand voting options during the pandemic, track the activities of lobbyists, and make the State Archives more accessible.

“I think that my track record sets me apart from everybody else in the field,” she said. “I am the one candidate that has really transformed a Rhode Island state government office in its variety of functions, its public-facing functions, then made it work for people.”

She added, “Everywhere I go people thank me for the way the Department of State has been run, and the next question then they ask is, ‘Are you going to run for office? Are you going to run for governor?’ So I’m thrilled to be able to say to them, yes, thank you, and join the team.”

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.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, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram

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