Rhode Island governor locked in a tight Democratic primary
Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee was locked in a tight Democratic primary on Tuesday as he sought his first full term in office.
With about half of the vote counted, McKee and former CVS Health executive Helena Foulkes were essentially tied, with Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea a few percentage points behind.
McKee, the former lieutenant governor, ascended to the state’s top office last year after two-term Gov. Gina Raimondo was tapped as U.S. commerce secretary.
He was trying to avoid becoming the first sitting governor to lose a primary since 2018, when Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer narrowly lost the Republican nomination to Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who went on to lose the general election to Democrat Laura Kelly. Like McKee, Colyer took over when the sitting governor resigned for another job.
Foulkes appeared to have benefited from a late rise in the polls. Days before the primary, she earned a last-minute endorsement from The Boston Globe’s editorial board, which called her a “big-picture leader who can sell the world on the state’s many virtues.”
Whichever candidate emerges from the Democratic gubernatorial primary will be heavily favored against Republican Ashley Kalus, a business owner and political novice, in November in the liberal state. Kalus easily beat back a challenge from fellow Republican Jonathan Riccitelli, who has been arrested dozens of times since 2000 under a different name, the Globe reported.
Kalus, who owns a COVID-19 testing company that’s in a dispute with the state over a canceled contract, moved to Rhode Island last year from Illinois and previously worked for former Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
In the last primaries before the November general election, voters in Rhode Island were choosing nominees for statewide offices, U.S. House, the state Legislature and local positions. New Hampshire and Delaware also held primaries on Tuesday.
Rhode Island Treasurer Seth Magaziner won the Democratic nomination for a congressional seat being vacated by longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin. Langevin, a Democrat retiring after two decades representing the state’s 2nd Congressional District, had endorsed Magaziner to replace him.
Republicans are eyeing the seat as a possible pickup opportunity in November. Magaziner had been running for governor but switched races after Langevin’s announcement to try to keep the seat in Democratic control.
Magaziner told supporters Tuesday night that the election is about values and preserving democracy for the next generation.
Magaziner, the state’s treasurer since 2015, had faced a crowded Democratic field with Joy Fox, a former top aide to Langevin; former Biden administration official Sarah Morgenthau; Omar Bah, executive director of The Refugee Dream Center in Providence; and former state lawmakers David Segal and Spencer Dickinson.
He’ll face Republican Allan Fung, a former Cranston mayor, in the November general election.
National Republican leaders aim to flip the seat into their control for the first time since 1991. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy visited Rhode Island in August to raise money for Fung. Two Republican rivals dropped out of the primary contest to clear the path for Fung.
In the 1st Congressional District, Democratic U.S. Rep. David Cicilline will face Republican Allen Waters in November. Both were unopposed Tuesday. Cicilline is seeking his seventh term.
But the top race in Rhode Island on Tuesday was the Democratic gubernatorial primary, whose winner will be favored to win in November in the liberal state.
McKee touted his leadership in navigating the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic after he was sworn in as governor in March 2021. Foulkes proved to be an adept fundraiser and spent heavily on the race in her first bid for public office. She highlighted her 25 years of experience at CVS, stating that she had nearly every leadership job at the company, including being president of the retail business.
Gorbea, who would be the first Latina governor in New England if elected, says the state needs better leadership on issues like housing, education and climate change.
Two other Democrats also sought the nomination: progressive candidate and former Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown, and community activist Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz.