PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Incumbent Gov. Dan McKee defeated Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea to win the Rhode Island Democratic Party’s endorsement for governor at its convention on Sunday evening, as the campaign heats up ahead of the Sept. 13 primary election.
McKee received 81 out of 162 votes from the convention delegates, giving him exactly 50% support, while Gorbea received 58 votes. The other candidates trailed far behind — former CVS executive Helena Foulkes and former Secretary of State Matt Brown received six votes each, activist Luis Daniel Muñoz received one, and 11 delegates either abstained or voted not to issue an endorsement at all.
“At this critical moment when we must protect reproductive rights, pass common-sense gun legislation, and continue our strong economic momentum, I’m looking forward to helping elect Democrats up and down the ballot as our nominee,” McKee said in a statement.
Last month’s 12 News/Roger Williams University poll showed McKee and Gorbea in a tight race for the Democratic nomination, with McKee at 25% and Gorbea at 23%, but 37% of voters undecided. Gorbea previously won the endorsement of the Democratic Party’s city and town committee chairs.
The governor’s position had strengthened in recent days. House Speaker Joe Shekarchi — who effectively controls the state party in Rhode Island — announced Friday he was endorsing McKee, and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio followed suit on Sunday.
“I am proud to support Governor McKee in his bid for election,” Shekarchi said. “We have an excellent working relationship which resulted in a great budget for all Rhode Islanders this year.”
In this year’s other marquee contest — the race to replace retiring Congressman Jim Langevin — the vote wasn’t close. General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, the frontrunner in polling and fundraising, easily won the party endorsement with 83% support from delegates in the 2nd District. He is facing Omar Bah, Joy Fox, Cameron Moquin, Sarah Morgenthau and David Segal.
In the race for lieutenant governor, incumbent Sabina Matos won the endorsement with 83 votes, while 56 delegates voted to make no endorsement after rival candidate state Rep. Deb Ruggiero opted not to seek the nod. A third candidate, state Sen. Cynthia Mendes, got 12 votes.
“Our campaign is a campaign for every Rhode Islander and I am more focused than ever on transforming the office of the lieutenant governor to provide a voice to Rhode Islanders who have traditionally been left out,” Matos said in a statement.
In another contested primary, former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa edged former Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor by nine votes to win the party’s endorsement for general treasurer. (The current treasurer, Magaziner, is barred by term limits from running again.)
“Now, I ask Rhode Islanders across the state to join me in this movement,” Diossa said. “I offer my dedication, my voice, and my commitment to the democratic values we hold dear. We need a treasurer who understands the needs of this state and each of the communities that make it such a special place.”
Pryor downplayed the significance of the vote. “It’s certainly not surprising that the other campaign received the endorsement of those assembled today,” he said. “My opponent serves as the 2nd Vice Chair of the state committee and has been campaigning for this endorsement for many months. What is surprising — and very encouraging — is that we had such a strong showing.”
State Rep. Gregg Amore was endorsed without opposition for secretary of state, as were two incumbents, Congressman David Cicilline and Attorney General Peter Neronha.
The three-day declaration period for candidates to seek office in Rhode Island this year begins Monday.
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