Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, 54, of North Kingstown, officially announced her candidacy for governor in 2022, challenging current Governor Dan McKee, who assumed the governorship only a few months ago when Gov. Gina Raimondo joined the Biden Administration.

Gorbea, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico and became the first Hispanic elected to statewide office when she was elected Secretary of State in 2014, becomes the first Latino in New England to run for governor, according to her official announcement.

The Democratic primary election for governor promises to be a spirited race, with Gov. McKee indicating he will seek election to a first full term as governor, and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza also expected to join the race. Gorbea, Magaziner and Elorza are all term-limited in their current positions. McKee would have been term-limited if had remained in his lieutenant governor’s position. Also, Louis Munoz of East Greenwich, who ran for governor as a Democrat in 2018, has actively filed his campaign finance reports as a potential gubernatorial candidate.

No Republicans have yet to indicate their candidacy for governor.

Gorbea, who had previously served as deputy Secretary of State and Executive Director of HousingWorks RI, said she plans to focus on education, affordable housing, and an “infrastructure that is climate resilient.”

“It has long been my mission to fundamentally change the way that government works for the people,” Gorbea said in her announcement. “I have done this in my role as Secretary of State and I look forward to doing this for Rhode Islanders as their Governor. I know a strong Rhode Island economy is dependent on having high quality education for all, housing that is affordable, and an infrastructure that is climate resilient. We absolutely can tackle these issues with a diversity of voices, perspectives, and opinions around the table. I am the proven leader to do just that.”

She promised to make “government more accountable to the people, to challenge special interests and the status quo and connect people to opportunities that will help them thrive.”

Videos from her campaign touted Gorbea’s “vast experience, her integrity, record of accomplishment and her genuine commitment to Rhode Island.” The campaign said Gorbea “has modernized Rhode Island’s elections’ infrastructure, increased cybersecurity measures and brought both online and automated voter registration to the state. She has developed online resources and reduced red tape to make it easier for small businesses to start and grow. Additionally, she overhauled the lobbying laws to hold special interests accountable when they don’t follow the law, ensure better compliance so the public can see who is influencing their government and enhance transparency.” 

Gorbea, who was founder of the Rhode Island Latino Civic Fund, earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

As of April, Gorbea’s campaign finance showed a fund balance of $546,539. Magaziner’s Fund balance was nearly $1.3 million, McKee’s was about $282,000, and Elorza’s fund balance was $955,313. Munoz fund balance was about $1,250.

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Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal. Prosnitz hosts the Morning Show on WLBQ radio (Westerly), 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and It’s Your Business, also on WBLQ, Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Prosnitz has twice won Best in Business Awards from the national Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), twice was named Media Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration, won an investigative reporter’s award from the New England Press Association, and newswriting award from the Rhode Island Press Association.