CRANSTON, R.I. — With primaries heating up for several top jobs, the Rhode Island Democratic Party on Sunday endorsed Governor Daniel J. McKee in the governor’s race, Seth Magaziner in the 2nd Congressional District race, and James A. Diossa in the state treasurer’s race.
McKee received 81 votes from the Democratic State Committee, topping Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea with 58 votes, former CVS executive Helena B. Foulkes with six votes, former secretary of state Matt Brown with six votes, and Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz with one vote. Another seven committee members voted for no endorsement, and four abstained.
“I’m grateful to receive the endorsement of the Rhode Island Democratic Party,” McKee said in a statement. “At this critical moment when we must protect reproductive rights, pass common-sense gun legislation, and continue our strong economic momentum, I’m looking forward to helping elect Democrats up and down the ballot as our nominee.”
The closest vote of the night came in the Democratic primary for general treasurer. Diossa, the former Central Falls mayor, received 84 votes, topping former Rhode Island Commerce secretary Stefan Pryor, who received 73 votes.
“I am humbled and grateful for this vote of confidence from the Rhode Island Democratic Party,” Diossa said in a statement. He said it “shows me that Rhode Islanders are looking for a Democratic candidate who has the experience of leadership — a candidate who has actually held executive office under the most difficult of circumstances and succeeded.”
Pryor issued a statement, saying, “It’s certainly not surprising that the other campaign received the endorsement of those assembled today. My opponent serves as the second vice chair of the state committee and has been campaigning for this endorsement for many months. What is surprising — and very encouraging — is that we had such a strong showing.”
Magaziner, the outgoing general treasurer, received 67 votes to secure the endorsement in the race to replace US Representative James R. Langevin in the 2nd Congressional District. He beat out former state Representative David A. Segal with five votes, and former Biden administration official Sarah E. Morgenthau with four votes.
Cameron Moquin received no votes. Another five committee members voted to make no endorsement. Democratic candidates Joy Fox and Omar Bah did not seek the party’s endorsement.
“I am honored to earn the endorsement of the Rhode Island Democratic Party,” Magaziner said. “There is so much at stake in this election, and I will fight to protect a woman’s right to choose, to keep our kids safe from gun violence, to transition our country to clean energy, and to protect Social Security and Medicare from attempts to cut benefits.”
The committee also gave its endorsement to Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, who secured 83 votes, topping state Senator Cynthia Mendes, an East Providence Democrat, who received 12 votes. Another 11 committee members abstained, and 56 voted to make no endorsement. State Representative Deborah L. Ruggiero, a Jamestown Democrat, did not seek the party’s endorsement.
“As the first Afro-Latina to hold statewide office in Rhode Island, I know what it means for Black and Latina girls to see a Black Latina in a position of influence,” Matos said. “As importantly, I know that the issues that matter to women of color are the issues that matter to every other Rhode Islander.”
The House speaker holds significant sway over the Democratic Party endorsement process. Sunday’s votes came days after House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, threw his support behind McKee and Magaziner. And the votes came hours after Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, a North Providence Democrat, announced his endorsement of McKee and Matos.
In uncontested races, the party gave its backing to US Representative David N. Cicilline in the 1st Congressional District, Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, and Representative Gregg Amore, and East Providence Democrat, for secretary of state.
Perhaps the most incendiary speech of the night came from former secretary of state Matt Brown, a Democratic candidate for governor who co-founded the progressive Rhode Island Political Cooperative.
“For years, I’ve been very public and open about the fact that I am working to build a movement to change the leadership of the Rhode Island Democratic Party,” he said. “I’m well aware that that means I’m not going to be endorsed here tonight.”
But Brown said the nation is facing an “emergency” following last week’s US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. He said Shekarchi and Ruggerio should have called a special legislative session to pass the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act, which would provide Medicaid coverage of abortions in Rhode Island. And he said McKee should refuse to sign the budget until that act passes.
“The root of the problem is that there are people in the leadership of the party who are opposed to reproductive freedom and voted against codifying Roe v. Wade — even though reproductive freedom is part of the party platform,” Brown. “This needs to change as soon as possible.”
So he called for the Democratic Party to refuse to endorse candidates who don’t support abortion rights, including Ruggerio, Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey, and Representative Arthur J. Corvese, who serves as party secretary.
The convention was held at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center, in Cranston. As the convention concluded, Kate Coyne-McCoy announced that she is stepping down as executive director of the Rhode Island Democratic Party.
“In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to repeal Roe v. Wade and in anticipation of even worse to come, I have been called back to national organizing,” Coyne-McCoy said in a statement. “I have devoted my entire career to promoting women — and am now committed to using my skill and every last ounce of energy to help women fight the blatant attacks on our bodies, our rights, and our communities.”
Coyne-McCoy is a former regional director for EMILY’s List and a political consultant who runs KCM Consulting. She said that during her 15 months as executive director, she focused on modernizing an “antiquated” Democratic Party.
“The state party now has all the tools it needs and is well positioned to win in the fall,” she wrote. “The legislative leadership here made sure that Roe was codified, but elsewhere women are under siege.”