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Gorbea weighs in on repealing the voter ID law, taxing the rich

On Rhode Island Report podcast, the Democratic candidate for governor talks about the difference between government and business experience

Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, a Democratic candidate for governor, took part in the Rhode Island Report podcast with Globe reporter Edward Fitzpatrick.Carlos Muñoz

PROVIDENCE — On the Rhode Island Report podcast, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea made her case for replacing Governor Daniel J. McKee and weighed in on proposals to tax the rich and repeal the state’s voter ID law.

When she first ran for secretary of state in 2014, Gorbea said she’d support repealing the voter ID law, which she called “a solution looking for a problem.” When asked if she still feels that way today, she said, “Absolutely. I don’t think that that is something that really secures our election.”

Gorbea, a Democrat, said many people use IDs on a regular basis. “But I happen to know that at the margins of society, people who may be homeless, people who might be 18 years of age, 19 years of age, don’t have a driver’s license.” Plus, the state has other means of guarding against voter fraud, she said.


So why hasn’t she led the charge to repeal the voter ID law during her two terms as the state’s chief elections officer?

“I felt that my efforts were better served over the last seven-and-a-half years at modernizing our election system, making sure that we had safe and secure voting systems, making sure that our voter rolls were cleaned up,” Gorbea said.

Senator Tiara Mack, a Providence Democrat, has introduced a bill to repeal the voter ID requirement, calling it a “racist and restrictive law.” Gorbea said, “I believe that there are ways in which that law can have a racist implication, and it is so in many other states in our country. And that worries me.”

During a Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus gubernatorial candidates forum Sunday, Gorbea said, “While some in this race have been in the business of making profits for business, I have been in the business of making government work for people.”


Gorbea said she was not discounting the business experience of opponents such as former CVS executive Helena Foulkes and Governor Daniel J. McKee.

“I’m just saying that I have more than just business experience,” she said. “Government runs differently. It does not run like a business, and it shouldn’t run like a business. It’s in the business of people, of serving the public. The bottom line is not the only line that you’re going to be looking at – you’re going to be looking at the welfare of the people that you’re serving. And so that’s a really key differential.”

Gorbea served as deputy secretary of state under then-secretary of state Matt Brown, who’s now one of her opponents in the Democratic primary.

When asked why voters should choose her over her former boss, Gorbea said, “I have a lot more experience and a lot more success than he has to show in making government run for people and making sure that businesses feel heard, that citizens feel heard, and that government is accountable and more efficient.”

Brown has said he would raise taxes on the state’s richest 1 percent and Gorbea would not. But Gorbea said, “He made that statement and characteristically for him, I guess, during this race he says things that are not grounded in truth. He hasn’t had a conversation with me in over three years.”

As governor, Gorbea said she would sign the bill to raise the top margin income rate from 5.99 to 8.99 percent on income of more than $475,000, essentially the top 1 percent of taxpayers. “I do sign it because I believe that it’s gone through a whole process in the legislature of vetting it,” she said.


Hear more by downloading the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at Follow him @FitzProv.