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Nellie Gorbea is running for governor of Rhode Island

The secretary of state is jumping into a 2022 gubernatorial race that could include Governor Daniel J. McKee, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, and Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza.

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea.Gretchen Ertl

PROVIDENCE — Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea is running for governor in 2022, getting an early jump in what is expected to be a highly competitive Democratic primary race.

“Today, after six and half years of working as your secretary of state, I’m thrilled to announce I’m running to be your governor,” Gorbea said in a YouTube video. “I’m running for governor to build a better Rhode Island, to make government more accountable to the people, to bring diverse voices to the table, and connect people to hopeful opportunities that will help them thrive.”

The video, posted Sunday night on her website, includes words of support from Rhode Islanders such as former Common Cause Rhode Island executive director H. Philip West Jr., “Nuestra Salud” radio talk show host Dr. Pablo Rodriguez, and Rhode Island Spirits co-owners Cathy Plourde and Kara Larson.


A news release sent just after midnight Monday said Gorbea is the first Latina in New England to run in a gubernatorial race, “making her candidacy historic for the state and region.”

“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,” Gorbea said. “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.”

Gorbea also changed her Facebook profile picture on Sunday night to show she is a candidate for governor.

Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea is running for governor of Rhode Island.Handout

Gorbea is entering a gubernatorial race that is expected to include Governor Daniel J. McKee, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, and Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, all Democrats. Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz, an independent, has already announced he will run as a Democrat.

McKee, the former lieutenant governor, replaced former governor Gina M. Raimondo in March when she became President Biden’s commerce secretary.


Gorbea, 53, of North Kingstown, became the first Hispanic person elected to statewide office in New England when she became secretary of state in 2015.

Born in Puerto Rico, Gorbea earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

“My love affair with Rhode Island started right after I arrived,” Gorbea says in the video. “Like my native Puerto Rico, Rhode Island is a small place where people are close and distances aren’t. The minute I reached out, Rhode Islanders welcomed me, so this is where I’ve chosen to build my home, where I’m raising my three kids, and where I’ve been involved at the local and state level for 30 years.”

Gorbea served as deputy secretary of state from 2002 to 2006 when Matt Brown was secretary of state. She was the Rhode Island Foundation’s program officer for economic and community development, and she was founding president of the Rhode Island Latino Civic Fund. She also worked for Fleet Securities and was executive director of HousingWorks RI for 5 ½ years.

Gorbea raised $159,000 in the first quarter of this year, bringing her campaign account to $546,539, according to reports filed with the state Board of Elections. That represents less than half of the $1.3 million in campaign cash that Magaziner has amassed, and it’s well short of the $955,313 in Elorza’s campaign account. But it still exceeds the $451,367 that McKee has collected.


On Sunday night, Gorbea sent an e-mail to her top supporters, saying that on Monday “I will announce my next step in the ongoing effort to make our beloved state better.” The message concluded by asking for a campaign donation, saying, “I will forever be grateful that you took a chance and elected me in 2014. I hope I can earn your support in my next step.”

In the letter, Gorbea cited her accomplishments as secretary of state.

“Together, we have delivered good government to citizens across the state and had a blast doing so,” she wrote. “We passed automated voter registration, made it easier for entrepreneurs to start small businesses, cracked down on violations of lobbying rules, and so much more. "

But, she said, “While we have created so much progress here in the Ocean State, there’s still room to grow.”

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at Follow him @FitzProv.