EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Pledging a campaign that would span Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns, Governor Dan McKee on Tuesday announced his run for election to a four-year term “with humility and optimism.”
McKee, the Democratic former lieutenant governor and mayor of Cumberland, has served for almost a year since former governor Gina Raimondo left for a spot in President Biden’s cabinet. McKee said his team has spent the last year “right-sizing a listing ship.”
“We have delivered important progress in this historic crisis,” McKee told reporters assembled at Igus Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of plastics components.
McKee was flanked by mayors from around the state, including Cranston Mayor Kenneth Hopkins, a Republican who said his presence wasn’t an endorsement, and the Mayor of East Providence, Bob DaSilva, a Democrat who said his was.
“He really focused on getting the details right,” DaSilva said. “He put that mayoral experience to work the moment he took office. Immediately I saw a change in the state’s response.”
Born and raised in Cumberland, McKee, 70, got his start in local politics in the northern Rhode Island town where he still lives. He had real-estate and fitness club businesses, and helped run his family’s home heating oil business when his father died in the mid-1980s. He was first elected as lieutenant governor in 2014, and won a second term in 2018. McKee was elevated to governor when Raimondo became US Secretary of Commerce. The two were not close; McKee’s own lieutenant governor, Sabina Matos, attended Tuesday’s campaign launch.
McKee faces Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, former Secretary of State Matt Brown and community activist Luis Daniel Munoz in the Democratic primary, set for September. No Republican has officially launched a campaign for governor, but Newport resident Ashley Kalus has opened a campaign account for a potential run.
McKee’s press event came after a tour of Ig’s facility, which employs about 350 people in the Rumford section of East Providence. A subsidiary of a German company, Igus makes and distributes motion-related components that go into everything from cars to car washing machines.
The company has grown by more than 100 people since the beginning of the pandemic, giving McKee the backdrop to tout his economic agenda. He said he’d focus on creating good-paying jobs, among other priorities, as the state emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have a lot of work to do,” McKee said. “We’re going to get it done.”
McKee took questions from reporters after his availability, and defended his administration’s response to COVID-19, saying they were able to quickly sort out blips like testing along the way. McKee touted the state’s tops-in-the-nation rankings for vaccinations and testing.
“We tested more than any state in the country, so of course we identified more cases than anywhere in the country,” McKee said. “And that’s what we were supposed to do to keep people healthy in the state of Rhode Island.”
Along with a selection of local elected officials from around the state, McKee’s family was also there – wife Susan, daughter Kara and son Matt and daughter-in-law Laura. Matt was wearing a rust-specked campaign button from McKee’s first run for Cumberland Town Council some 30 years ago. He breaks it out for special occasions.
“We’re just so proud of him,” Matt said of his dad.