PROVIDENCE — Jeann Lugo, a Providence police officer who lives in Warwick, is running for lieutenant governor as a Republican.
Lugo will face a GOP primary against Paul E. Pence Jr., who received 29 percent of the vote in the 2018 lieutenant governor’s won by now-Governor Daniel J. McKee. The winner will face whoever emerges from a Democrat primary involving Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, Senator Cynthia Mendes, and Representative Deborah L. Ruggiero.
Lugo, who has never run for public office before, said the “current atmosphere of politics” motivated him to enter the race.
For example, he said he responded to the June 2020 riot in downtown Providence in which people broke into the Providence Place mall, set a police car on fire, and looted stores. He claimed those who committed crimes that night were emboldened by Providence City Council members who called for defunding the police after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd.
“That caused a major rift in the city and state where certain individuals lost confidence in the police department,” Lugo said. “I believe the state and the country are so divided that this is something I could help fix.”
Lugo issued a statement on Thursday, noting that Texas Governor Greg Abbott just sent a busload of migrants from the Texas border to Washington, D.C., to protest the Biden administration’s decision to end Title 42, a pandemic-era order that let immigration authorities deny entry to migrants, including those seeking asylum.
In his statement, Lugo challenged Matos, asking if she agrees with the Biden administration and wondering if she will call Abbott to request migrants to boost Rhode Island’s population. He noted that Matos has talked about the importance of counting immigrants and other to hard-to-reach populations in the 2020 census, which allowed Rhode Island to hold onto two seats in the House of Representatives.
Lugo said he does not believe that undocumented immigrants should be counted in the census. Former President Donald J. Trump tried to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census — a failed move that critics saw as a way to discourage participation among noncitizens and Latinos and to skew the results in favor of Republicans.
In his statement, Lugo asked Matos, “Do you believe the citizens in RI can take on the tax burden and housing shortage with our current fragile economy or would you help improve our state tax system to retain current residents? Stand for something or fall for anything.”
He said Rhode Island residents, especially retirees, are moving to other states, such as Florida and Texas, because they have better economic development and lower taxes.
Lugo, 35, moved from Puerto Rico to Providence in 1992 with his mother and two brothers. In 2000, a domestic incident resulted in the separation of his family by the Providence police and social services, and he was placed in state Department of Children, Youth, and Families custody at age 13. He remained in foster case until adulthood.
Lugo graduated from the Health, Science, and Technology Academy in 2005 and went to the Community College of Rhode Island. He worked for a security firm for 15 years in the Boston area. In June 2019, he graduated from the 69th Providence Police Academy and now works as a Providence police officer.
Lugo has loaned his campaign $1,060, and he had $710 in his campaign account at the end of 2021, according to the state Board of Elections. He said he now has about $2,700 in his campaign accounting and plans to focus on fundraising during the summer. First quarter campaign finance reports are due May 2.