With Gov. Gina Raimondo headed to Washington and a spot in the Biden administration, and Lt. Gov. Dan McKee poised to become governor, Aquidneck Island state Senator Lou DiPalma is hoping to fill the lieutenant governor’s position.
Senator DiPalma currently represents Senate District 12, which includes portions of Little Compton, Middletown, Newport and Tiverton.
Raimondo reportedly accepted the Commerce Secretary’s position, a department that oversees a variety of functions including the census, National Weather Service and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
The appointment means that McKee, whose relationship with Raimondo has often been viewed as sometimes distant, will become governor. It has been rumored that McKee and Raimondo have been meeting lately to plan for the transition.
That leaves a vacancy for lieutenant governor, a position DiPalma said that will be filled by McKee once he becomes governor.
“I am keenly interested in the lieutenant governor’s position,” said DiPalma, who discussed the prospect with McKee “a while ago” and plans to discuss “it again.”
It’s likely, however, that DiPalma is not the only one interested in the position. While DiPalma said he hasn’t talked to him, he believes that James Diossa, who was term limited as Central Falls Mayor is also interested.
DiPalma has served in the state Senate since 2008, representing Newport, Middletown, Tiverton, and Little Compton.
McKee had been among several individuals expected to run for governor. He is in his second four-year as lieutenant governor. In Rhode Island general officers are term limited after two four-year terms. The only general officer not term limited in 2022 is Attorney General Peter Neronha.
McKee, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, all term limited in 2022, are expected to vie for the Democratic nomination for governor, along with Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza.
Incumbency is considered a distinct advantage in most races.
“I think it changes the dynamics,” DiPalma said. “He’ll (McKee) be the incumbent. Challenging an incumbent is difficult, and additionally, as an incumbent he’ll be able to significantly increase his so-called war-chest in preparation for the 2022 gubernatorial race.”
Right now, McKee is well behind in fundraising, with $104,562, according to the Board of Elections. According to the board, Magaziner has $963,654 in his account, Elorza’s campaign fund is $733,292, and Gorbea’s account is at $329,676.
McKee, a former Cumberland mayor, has been a champion of small business during his six years as lieutenant governor. As mayor was instrumental in the development of the mayoral academies, a former of charter schools.
DiPalma, like McKee, comes from municipal government, serving on the Middletown Town Council from 2004-2008, when he was elected to the Senate.
DiPalma, who earned a Bachelor’s Degree in computer engineering from Bridgeport University and Master’s Degree in computer science from Brown University, is a technical director at Raytheon. He and his wife, Margaret, have two children.
Update (11:30 am on Jan. 8): McKee has issued the following statement;
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