PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Lt. Gov. Dan McKee has changed his mind about keeping secret the process of choosing his successor, announcing Friday he plans to release the names of the more than 60 applicants who are seeking the position following a review.
The about-face comes less than a day 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.
The lieutenant governor, who is poised to ascend to the state’s top job after Gov. Gina Raimondo leaves to become U.S. commerce secretary, initially refused to release the information. But a spokesperson said Friday he now “believes the process should be transparent.”
“Calls will be made to each applicant to ensure the application is valid and was submitted with their knowledge,” McKee transition spokesperson Mike Trainor said in a statement. “Once the authentication process is complete, the transition team will release the names of all validated applicants – the team expects this will occur early next week.”
The delay, he added, is “only based upon ensuring a valid list is provided to the public and the media.” Target 12 has confirmed at least two of the applications were submitted as practical jokes.
McKee is expected to name his replacement sometime after becoming governor, meaning the next lieutenant governor will be chosen by one person rather than the voters. McKee publicized a website where he asked interested candidates for the No. 2 position to submit their applications by this past Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Target 12 requested the applications and all related documents, then filed the public-records complaint after the lieutenant governor’s office denied the request and failed to cite a specific exemption that would shield the documents from being disclosed to the public.
The prospect of landing such a high-profile position without having to win an election has spurred widespread interest. Several people have publicly discussed their interest in being appointed, including former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, Middletown state Sen. Louis DiPalma, R.I. Black Business Association President Lisa Ranglin, and former Pawtucket state Sen. Donna Nesselbush.
Others are presumably lobbying for the job behind the scenes.
During an interview with 12 News last week, McKee declined to say whether he had a short list of potential appointees, saying he wants the process be “quick but not in a hurry.” He also said he wants the position to be filled by someone who “can really work with me.”
On Friday, Trainor reiterated that filling the lieutenant governor’s position isn’t a top priority for McKee, but that it will be addressed sometime after he becomes governor.
“The incoming governor is laser-focused on the COVID-19 response and vaccine rollout,” Trainor said. “He will address filling the lieutenant governor’s position after he is sworn in as governor.”