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Listen to the candidates vying to be the next governor of Rhode Island

Hear interviews with the Democratic and Republican candidates as they weigh in on major issues such as the pandemic, climate change, and the housing crisis in R.I.

The Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council hosted a gubernatorial candidate forum on May 5 at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Warwick. The candidates are, from left, Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz, Governor Daniel J. McKee, Republican candidate Ashley Kalus, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, former CVS executive Helena B. Foulkes, and former secretary of state Matt Brown.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

PROVIDENCE — Another intriguing election year is taking shape in Rhode Island, and one of the most consequential contests is the race for governor.

To help voters learn more about the candidates and where they stand on the major public health, housing, and environmental crises facing the state, Globe Rhode Island interviewed each of the five Democratic candidates and the major Republican candidate for the Rhode Island Report podcast.

The interviews began with Democratic Governor Daniel J. McKee in October and ended with progressive candidate Matt Brown in May. In between, we heard from former CVS executive Helena B. Foulkes, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz, and Republican candidate Ashley Kalus.


Take a listen to help you determine who to vote for.

Governor Daniel J. McKee defended the controversial state contract with the ILO Group and outlined his “Rhode Island 2030″ vision for bringing the state back from the pandemic. The House and Senate oversight committees grilled officials in McKee’s administration over an education contract, worth up to $5.2 million, that was awarded to the ILO Group. Senator Louis P. DiPalma, a McKee ally who heads the Senate oversight committee, ended the hearing by suggesting McKee terminate the ILO contract and rebid the work. During the podcast, McKee said he would tell DiPalma the same thing he told him during a private meeting: “that he was wrong and that you have all the information that you need to know that the procurement process was followed.”

Former CVS executive Helena Foulkes made her case for unseating McKee, saying, “My argument is that Rhode Islanders deserve better.” “I hear often from people that the governor just doesn’t feel decisive,” she said. “He doesn’t feel like the kind of person who could make the big decisions that matter for the next decade.” Foulkes faulted McKee for not doing more to prepare the state for a COVID-19 surge in November when a confidential internal state report warned the virus was spreading rapidly. And, she said, “I think we also could have been much more aggressive about our testing capabilities, making sure we didn’t have people waiting three hours in line to get tested or five days to get their PCR test back.”


Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea made her case for replacing 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.” 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.

Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz, a Democratic candidate for governor, is accusing some of his opponents of being “performative” on issues such as homelessness and gas prices. Muñoz noted that Brown and Senator Cynthia Mendes, a lieutenant governor candidate, slept in tents outside the State House in December, calling for McKee to do more about homelessness. “(Brown) assumes that for doing that, that they have done enough to address the issue of homelessness and the housing crisis,” Muñoz said. “My concern is that they’re very performative.” He noted that he and other advocates showed up last summer when Providence officials were attempting to oust about 15 people living in tents on a vacant lot in the West End, and he and officials such as Representative Leonela Felix helped with rent relief clinics.


So have you ever been to Benny’s? Republican gubernatorial candidate Ashley Kalus, a healthcare executive and newcomer to Rhode Island, answered that question and others. Kalus – who entered the governor’s race in March and announced last week that she will put $500,000 of her own money into her campaign – argued she would do a better job than McKee. “We need an outsider,” she said. “We need to change directions.” Why would Rhode Island need an outsider? “I think for too long, insiders have been running the government,” Kalus said, “and it hasn’t served the people.”

In September, when Brown and Mendes announced they were running for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively, they said they were pursuing a progressive “governing majority” in the General Assembly and governor’s office. “We’re gonna win the whole [expletive] State House,” Brown said in a video. The two said they were running running alongside a slate of up to 50 other Rhode Island Political Cooperative candidates. So, eight months later, how is that bold prediction going? “We’re just getting started here,” Brown said. While the Democratic former secretary of state is trailing in fundraising and polling, he said, “The election season is just beginning. We’re seeing just huge excitement all across the state.”


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at Follow him @FitzProv.