PROVIDENCE — In 2018, former state Representative Aaron Regunberg came close to knocking off Lieutenant Governor Daniel J. McKee in a Democratic primary, taking 49 percent of the vote.
Now, with McKee term-limited and expected to run for governor in two years, Regunberg is preparing to make a second run for lieutenant governor in 2022.
While stopping short of formally announcing his candidacy, he sent an email to supporters Monday saying he’s going to “explore” another run, and he put out a campaign-style video.
“We almost got there two years ago, with thousands of volunteers and grassroots donors all across our state,” Regunberg wrote. “And I know that this time around, together, we can get the job done.”
Regunberg, 30, of Providence, has about $25,000 in his campaign account, but he could face a crowded Democratic field. The list of potential candidates includes Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa, Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena, and state Senator Louis P. DiPalma, a Middletown Democrat.
The lieutenant governor’s position came into focus on Dec. 2, after national news outlets described Governor Gina M. Raimondo as a top contender to become President-elect Joe Biden’s Health and Human Services secretary. Raimondo put that speculation to rest, but had she gone to Washington, McKee would have become governor. Attention quickly focused on who McKee might name to succeed him as lieutenant governor, and whether the General Assembly would pass a bill allowing legislators to fill lieutenant governor vacancies.
In his letter to supporters, Regunberg said his narrow loss in the 2018 race showed that “Rhode Islanders are ready for change,” and he wants to make the “under-utilized” lieutenant governor more of a “public advocate.”
“I still believe that we can turn that office into something our state actually needs – a tool to help our communities hold state government accountable, and a home for issues that matter to all of us: workers’ rights, climate justice, healthcare, and government reform,” he wrote.
Regunberg credited his 2018 support to local labor, environmental, and reproductive justice groups, national progressive organizations such as Justice Democrats and Democracy For America, 15 city and town Democratic committees, and US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who endorsed him at the time.
Regunberg graduated from Brown University and co-founded the Providence Student Union, an education justice organization that supports young people fighting for better public schools. In 2014, he was elected to the General Assembly, representing a district on Providence’s East Side formerly held by House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, who pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribery, wire fraud and tax evasion.
After his narrow loss to McKee, Regunberg worked as a policy adviser for the City of Providence. He’s currently studying at Harvard Law School, where he has worked with the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program to support national climate litigation. He also founded a national campaign to hold top law firms accountable for helping protect the fossil fuel industry. He plans to graduate in May 2022.
Regunberg has remained visible in several high-profile protests, calling for the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls to stop accepting Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees, and calling on senators to stop the confirmation of President Trump from immediately replacing US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after her death in September.