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Governor McKee deals with cards, RICAS scores, and criticism

On the Rhode Island Report podcast, Governor Dan McKee responds to issues raised during the gubernatorial campaign and talks about the campaign ad in which he plays cards with his 94-year-old mother

Governor Daniel J. McKee showed Boston Globe reporter Edward Fitzpatrick how to play the card game "May I?" at his campaign headquarters in Providence.Carlos Muñoz

PROVIDENCE — On the Rhode Island Report podcast, Governor Daniel J. McKee talked about the card game he plays in an ad with his 94-year-old mother and bristled at questions raised during the gubernatorial campaign about RICAS test scores and a controversial education contract.

In the Nov. 8 general election, the Democratic incumbent governor is facing Republican Ashley Kalus, who in an earlier podcast talked about boxing and responded to questions about abortion rights and charges that she is a “carpetbagger.”

During the campaign, Kalus has pressed McKee to release the latest round of Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System test scores before Election Day. And Globe columnist Dan McGowan has called for releasing the scores, suggesting they’d have come out before the election if the scores were good.


“That’s accusatory,” McKee responded. “And I’m tired of this. So for the last two or three weeks, there’s been a big effort to show that somehow I was holding cards that I wasn’t willing to share. I don’t have the scores. How much clearer can I be than that?”

He said the test scores were provided to the Rhode Island Department of Education on July 25 last year and no one complained that they were released 62 days later. But a Department of Education spokesman has said a vendor provided the test scores on Aug. 25 last year, compared to Sept. 12 this year. Officials say the scores are still being validated and will be released in mid-November.

McKee rejected that idea that he, as governor, could have the scores released before voters go to the polls if he wanted to. “I’m telling you, that’s not true,” he said.

The McKee administration has faced scrutiny, including an FBI investigation, over a now-cancelled multimillion-dollar contract that was in part for municipal education centers such as the one he championed as mayor of Cumberland.


“I haven’t changed direction,” he said. “I put $47 million in the budget to open up municipal centers throughout the state of Rhode Island. We have 29 applications right now.”

During the campaign, Kalus has criticized McKee over the FBI probe, and she wore an FBI costume on Halloween.

McKee rejected that criticism, noting that Attorney General Peter F. Neronha told WPRO’s Dan Yorke that Kalus’ attacks regarding the FBI investigation were “unfair” because no law enforcement agencies have said any wrongdoing took place.

“(Neronha) has called it unfair,” McKee said. “Look up the synonyms for unfair: Dishonest. She’s dishonest. The people who are reporting this – that are trying to shape it in such a way to make people believe things that aren’t true – they’re being dishonest. Period.”

When asked about the similarities and differences between running for governor and playing cards, McKee said cards are “a lot more fun.”

“There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “This is a lot more fun. Both take skill, though.”

To get the latest episode each week, follow Rhode Island Report podcast on Apple Podcasts and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at Follow him @FitzProv.