PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The mayors of at least two Rhode Island communities believe Gov. Gina Raimondo should formally hand the reins over to Lt. Gov. Dan McKee as she prepares to leave to Washington, D.C.
Raimondo is expected to join President Joe Biden’s cabinet as secretary of commerce. Her nomination for the role was recently approved by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and now awaits a confirmation vote on the Senate floor.
North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi said he thinks it’s time for McKee to take over.
“I think the governor should step aside for the betterment of state government and its operations and the decisions that need to be made,” Lombardi said. “I would bet my business that she is going to be confirmed.”
Raimondo has said she will not resign until she is confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
“I can tell you I’m working as hard as I ever have as the governor,” Raimondo said during an interview with 12 News earlier this week. “My day-to-day hasn’t changed that much.”
“I owe it to the people of Rhode Island to do that, to work as hard as I can until the moment I’m no longer the governor,” she continued. “That’s what I’m doing, and that’s what I intend to do.”
Warwick Mayor Frank Picozzi said if he were in Raimondo’s shoes, he would step down.
“Power needs to be handed over to the lieutenant governor so we can continue leadership in our state as we get through this pandemic,” he said in a statement. “Gov. Raimondo did a great job guiding us through this crisis to this point, but we need continuous leadership from this point on.”
Johnston Mayor Joe Polisena, who is a member of McKee’s transition team, didn’t go as far as suggesting Raimondo should resign, but did say they’re anxious to hit the ground running.
“We’re like a 747 on a runway with our engines racing ready to take off, and we can’t do anything until we take our orders from Governor McKee,” Polisena said.
On Friday, a spokesperson for Raimondo said she remains engaged in the state’s pandemic response.
“Gov. Raimondo and her team are in daily communication with Lt. Gov. McKee, Dr. [Nicole] Alexander-Scott, General [Chris] Callahan, Secretary [Stefan] Pryor and other state officials leading Rhode Island’s pandemic response,” the spokesperson said. “Governor Raimondo continues to give guidance and direction to this team. During this period of transition, she and Lieutenant Governor McKee are closely coordinating on all COVID policy decisions.”
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said while the ongoing transition “has not yet impacted our work,” it has affected the city’s long-term planning.
“I have met with the lieutenant governor to discuss the strategy on some important issues and I hope the transition happens soon so that it does not end up impacting those long-term projects,” he said in a statement.
Cranston Mayor Ken Hopkins shared similar sentiments.
“Clear and consistent leadership is critical during the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine,” Hopkins said in a statement. “I am looking forward to the new administration and getting to work with incoming Governor Daniel McKee during these crucial times.”
A confirmation vote for Raimondo has not yet been scheduled but there is a widespread expectation at the State House she will get a confirmation vote on the week of Feb. 22.