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Here’s who has applied to become the next RI lieutenant governor

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Lt. Gov. Dan McKee on Tuesday released the names of 60 people who applied to succeed him in the state’s No. 2 job.

The list of applicants includes politicians, business leaders and community organizers, including some familiar names, along with some unexpected entrants.

Current state lawmakers who applied include Sen. Louis DiPalma, who made public his intensions of seeking the job, along with Reps. Grace Diaz and Anastasia Williams, who submitted applications without announcement.

Contacted Tuesday, Williams said the lieutenant governor’s office is underutilized, which she said could change under her leadership.

“I enjoy where I’m at, but if there’s an opportunity to make good positive changes elsewhere, why not?” Williams told Target 12.

Diaz, who had been exploring a run for Providence mayor, but isn’t anymore, said she believes in term limits, so she doesn’t plan to run for the General Assembly again either. Her political experience, however, makes her a good candidate for lieutenant governor, she added.

“I’m able to start this job day one,” she told Target 12, adding that she feels like a woman of color could bring another perspective to leadership. “I said, ‘Why not?’ Let me put my name there too.”

Former state lawmakers on the list include Joanne Giannini, Donna Nesselbush, Michael Pisaturo and Aaron Regunberg — who lost to McKee in a Democratic primary for lieutenant governor in 2018.

“This is a unique time in history,” Nesselbush said in an interview Tuesday. “I would be honored to help Gov. McKee and partner with him and work together to help Rhode Island overcome this pandemica and build back our businesses.”

Providence City Council President Sabina Matos, who previously declined to comment on whether she was interested in the state’s No. 2 job, is also included on the list of applicants. Matos has been floated as a possible candidate for the job, although the city leader has also indicated plans to run for Providence mayor in 2022.

“Although I would not openly campaign for such consideration, I would welcome the opportunity to join with you as lieutenant governor in the work of giving direction to the state we love,” Matos wrote in her application letter. She did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Others from municipal government include former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, along with Maria Bucci — who formerly served on the Cranston City Council and most recently ran an unsuccessful bid for mayor — and Westerly Town Councilor Caswell Cooke Jr. Former Cumberland Mayor David Iwuc, who once beat McKee in a race for the town’s top job, has also applied.

Other familiar names from the public sector include Dylan Conley — a lawyer who serves as chair of the Providence Board of Licenses and recently ran for U.S. Congress — along with Keith Oliveira, executive director of the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools.

Rhode Island’s National Democratic Committeewoman Elizabeth Beretta-Perik is also on the list, along with former Gov. Lincoln Almond’s director of communication Lisa Pelosi.

From the private sector, Rhode Island Black Business Association founder and president Lisa Ranglin has applied, along with well-known investor Ray Mathieu and 12 News meteorologist T.J. Del Santo, although Del Santo has since withdrawn his application.

“I wanted to increase protections for the environment to keep our water and air clean across the state, but I’ve decided to withdraw my application for various reasons,” Del Santo said Tuesday.

The list also includes a host of less well-known people who tossed their hats into the ring, such as Bob Hamel — a semi-retired psychiatric nurse practitioner, who pitched himself as an outsider that could bring a change of attitude to state government.

“Since I owe no one favors, I have no skeletons in my closet, and to my knowledge…no enemies, it may be worth picking a relatively unknown to complement the governor,” he wrote in his application.

Initially, more than 60 people applied for the job, but state officials said they identified and removed four applications that were submitted as practical jokes.

McKee, who is poised to ascend to the state’s top job after Gov. Gina Raimondo leaves to become U.S. commerce secretary, is expected to name his replacement as lieutenant governor sometime after the transition is complete. Raimondo is still awaiting full U.S. Senate confirmation.

The incoming governor will face some pressure to appoint a woman to the job, since Raimondo’s departure will leave Rhode Island with just one woman — Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea — holding statewide elected office.

“I think it’s really important that he selects a qualified woman to be the lieutenant governor,” Nesselbush said. “It’s very important that women have a seat at the table because frankly, it is a policy driver.”

Traditionally the lieutenant governor is an elected position that comes up every four years along with the governor. Those seeking to run for the office must file paperwork with election officials, which is a public record.

The Cumberland Democrat initially refused to release the applications, but he changed his mind after Target 12 filed a complaint with the R.I. Attorney General’s Office accusing McKee of unlawfully withholding public documents under the state’s Access to Public Records Act.

McKee publicized a website where any interested candidates for the No. 2 position — that comes with a nearly $123,000 annual salary — could submit an application by last Tuesday.

McKee’s transition team announced Friday it would release the names of the applicants after reviewing and calling each applicant “to ensure the application is valid and was submitted with their knowledge.”

Here’s a full list of the applicants. Target 12 is not disclosing the name of one applicant who state officials said has been diagnosed with mental health issues:

  • Robert Albanese
  • Dana Amore
  • Ray Berberick
  • Elizabeth Beretta-Perik
  • James Black
  • 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 an investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

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

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