PROVIDENCE — Governor Daniel J. McKee was sworn in as Rhode Island’s 76th governor on Tuesday, taking the oath of office shortly after Governor Gina Raimondo formally resigned to become US commerce secretary.
McKee, 69, has been the lieutenant governor for the last six years and previously served as the Democratic mayor of Cumberland. He will complete the the rest of current term and has said he intends to run for governor next year.
McKee was sworn in by Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea during a small gathering in the State House, and the two shared an elbow bump after the ceremony. Gorbea is widely expected to run for governor next year.
The new governor’s first order of business was to sign an executive order promising to follow the state Code of Ethics, just as Raimondo did in 2015 when she took office.
The Senate voted 84-15 to confirm outgoing Raimondo on Tuesday afternoon, and her office issued a statement shortly after 6 p.m. to announce she had resigned as governor
“Serving as governor these past six years has been the honor of my lifetime,” Raimondo wrote in her resignation letter. “Together we jumpstarted our economy, lifted up small businesses, made record investments in education, led the fight against climate change, made long-overdue repairs to crumbling roads, bridges, and schools, and provided skills and a pathway to a good job for thousands of Rhode Islanders.”
Earlier Tuesday, McKee, 69, received his first COVID-19 vaccine dose at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. He said his wife, Susan McKee, went online and made an appointment for both of them now that the vaccine is available to those 65 and older.
“With vaccines finally reaching our communities, we can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he told reporters. “There is a reason to have hope and be optimistic about Rhode Island’s future.”
McKee urged Rhode Islanders to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.
“We all know that the fastest way to defeat this enemy called COVID-19 is through getting shots,” he said. “For us to get back to work, to get our students back in the schools, and get businesses back to business, the vaccination is very important for us.”
McKee said having a governor in the president’s Cabinet is a source of pride for Rhode Islanders, and he said he texted Raimondo on Tuesday morning.
“I said ‘Enjoy the moment’ because I think that it is an accomplishment,” he said. “The governor texted me back to make sure I do a good job by the state, and she had confidence that I will.”
McKee said he feels prepared to step in as the state’s chief executive.
“We are putting our stamp on things before I get into office,” he said. “We are ready. The people of Rhode Island should feel very comfortable that, Day 1, we will have people in every department running the departments and also in our office.
McKee’s promotion leaves a vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office, and McKee has accepted more than 70 applications for the job in recent weeks. He’ll make the appointment later this month, but his selection will need to be confirmed by the state Senate.
Providence City Council President Sabina Matos and former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa has emerged as favorites to be lieutenant governor, although McKee said he intends to interview every applicant.