Who’s Dan McKee? Meet Rhode Island’s Subsequent Governor


PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) – Lt. Gov. Dan McKee says he is been working for six years to ensure he is able to change into Rhode Island’s subsequent governor.

This assertion will now be put to the check: 12 Information has confirmed that Governor Gina Raimondo has accepted a proposal to hitch President-elect Joe Biden’s cupboard as United States Secretary of Commerce – that means she shall be leaving Rhode Island halfway by way of its second and ultimate four-year interval. governorship, assuming she wins affirmation from the Democrat-controlled US Senate.

Raimondo’s departure means McKee, a fellow Democrat, will transfer from a political place with little energy to at least one that oversees many of the state authorities. He’ll management every little thing from constructing Rhode Island’s greater than $ 10 billion state finances to creating robust public well being choices amid a coronavirus pandemic that has contributed to the deaths of greater than 1,900 residents of Rhode Island.

“Security and well being are the highest precedence,” McKee stated final week throughout a WPRI Newsmakers recording 12.

Though he has served as second-in-command for the previous six years, McKee, 69, continues to be not as well-known in Rhode Island as another political leaders – partially due to the dearth of energy of place n ° 2.. Not like most different states, the place lieutenant governors chair the state senate, work in Rhode Island has lengthy been criticized for its usefulness since that position was eradicated right here.

The founding father of the Cool Moose Celebration, Bob Healey Jr., who died in 2016, acquired almost 40% of the vote within the 2010 lieutenant governor’s race on an workplace abolition platform.

“It is essentially the most ineffective appendix of presidency,” Healey stated The New York Occasions on the time.

But Raimondo’s determination to depart Rhode Island halfway by way of his second time period underscores the job’s most vital perform: being prepared to guide if the present governor cannot.

“My job has at all times been to arrange for this unlikely situation,” McKee defined final month. “I’m ready.”

McKee, who will change into Rhode Island’s 76th governor, is seen as rather less liberal than Raimondo and is predicted to take workplace with a distinct set of priorities – together with advocating for small enterprise and coaching constitution faculties.

However how shortly his agenda takes form might rely on how shortly the general public well being disaster is contained and his willingness to reverse the established order so near the 2022 gubernatorial election, when he has indicated that ‘he was planning to run for the job himself.

“You are going to see a bit extra average administration than the Raimondo administration,” 12 Information political analyst Joe Fleming stated. “On the similar time, I do not assume it is going to be too conservative. He appears to be like to 2022 and being the lively governor places him in a very good place. If he will get too conservative, it might damage him.

Political roots

McKee’s political profession started in his hometown of Cumberland, the place he and his spouse Susan raised their two youngsters, Kara and Matthew.

McKee was first elected to Cumberland Metropolis Council in 1992 after which served as mayor for 11 non-consecutive years beginning in 2000, when he defeated incumbent Francis Gaschen.

The marketing campaign centered partially on Gaschen, who reportedly offered his used furnishings and books to the city for almost $ 10,000. (Gaschen, who then repaid the cash, argued that the property had been independently appraised and offered for lower than estimated.)

McKee’s preliminary success, nevertheless, didn’t final lengthy. He misplaced his candidacy for re-election in 2004 to David Iwuc, who managed to characterize McKee as somebody who shirked his duties as mayor whereas attending the Kennedy College of Authorities at Harvard College.

McKee gained the put up in 2006 and efficiently held it till he was elected lieutenant governor in 2014. In the meantime, the Democrat has been credited with restoring town’s credit standing, which had fallen into unhealthy bond territory in 2001.

However his most vital, and arguably most controversial, achievement was linked to his work selling constitution faculties in Rhode Island – an effort set in movement shortly after he was elected for the second time.

“For too lengthy, we’ve accepted the favored thought that studying can solely occur in faculties and that the position of metropolis authorities in schooling is strictly a perform of the finances,” McKee stated after taking it. in January 2007, in keeping with an article in The Windfall. Newspaper. “The mayor has a accountability to assist discover new methods for youngsters to study and new methods to fund this effort.”

Practically a 12 months later, McKee proposed to open a regional public college system that might be overseen by the mayors of Central Falls, Cumberland, Lincoln, Pawtucket and Woonsocket. The proposal finally become Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, a constitution college system that helped outline McKee and his political profession.

Constitution faculties and unions

McKee efficiently lobbied the Common Meeting in 2008 to cross laws permitting mayors’ academies, a controversial achievement in Rhode Island schooling that has pitted public sector unions in opposition to him ever since.

In 2009, Blackstone Valley Prep Major College was launched with 9 academics, two full-time employees and 76 kindergartens. Quick ahead to right now, and Blackstone Valley Prep claims 2,100 college students and 300 academics, leaders and employees in six faculties.

McKee, who continues to serve on the college’s board of administrators, stays a robust advocate for constitution faculties. When RI’s Division of Training took over Windfall’s failing public college system in 2019, McKee stated constitution faculties – like Achievement First in Windfall – ought to improve enrollment.

“I’m not satisfied that constitution faculties are the final word resolution,” McKee stated throughout a 2019 interview with 12 Information. “However take a look at the success first. It was thought of one of the best college for this age group in all of Rhode Island final 12 months. These youngsters come from the identical neighborhoods as the youngsters who attend Windfall faculties with a sufficiency fee of 10% or much less. ”

His help for constitution faculties has turned the state’s largest public sector unions in opposition to him over time. However their opposition has failed to dam McKee’s political rise.

Throughout his reelection marketing campaign for mayor in 2008, the Nationwide Training Affiliation of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island AFL-CIO and the Rhode Island Federation of Academics and Well being Professionals despatched direct mailings and paid for tv commercials claiming that McKee destroyed public schooling. . He beat Iwuc once more with 64% of the vote.

After defeating outgoing Lieutenant Governor Ralph Mollis and State Consultant Frank Ferri in a Democratic three-way main in 2014, many unions in Rhode Island took the weird step of backing Republican candidate Catherine Taylor, basically elections. McKee beat Taylor with about 54% of the vote.

4 years later, McKee confronted a troublesome main problem from progressive Democratic consultant Aaron Regunberg, and this time discovered himself struggling not solely in opposition to many of the state’s unions, but in addition in opposition to the rising left wing of his personal social gathering. Regunberg even acquired the endorsement of US Senator Bernie Sanders.

Nonetheless, McKee maintained the help of his fellow Democrats elected in Rhode Island and argued that he was extra prepared than Regunberg to take over if Raimondo left halfway by way of his time period. McKee gained by round 2,500 votes, taking 51%.

McKee’s tenuous relationship with the unions will now be put to the check in a brand new means, as hundreds of members out of the blue type a part of his workforce. Fleming stated working to enhance his relations with unions might go a great distance in bettering his possibilities of being elected in 2022.

“It provides him one thing to work on over these two years: making an attempt to repair some fences,” Fleming stated.

A McKee administration

The largest rapid problem dealing with the McKee administration would be the public well being disaster linked to the coronavirus.

Residents of Rhode Island proceed to be contaminated at excessive charges day by day, and hospital staff have handled tons of of COVID-19 sufferers repeatedly for months. On the similar time, the logistics surrounding the deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine are more likely to change into more and more sophisticated and controversial as vaccinations prolong past hospital employees and long-term care services.

Inside state authorities, McKee may even be liable for creating a finances proposal for the 2021-2022 fiscal 12 months, due in March, and he might want to resolve run his administration. Rumors main as much as Raimondo’s departure sparked many torrents amongst state workers anxious about job safety beneath a McKee administration.

However Fleming stated the brand new governor would wrestle to make too many employees adjustments, partially as a result of the state should discover its means by way of the pandemic and widespread upheaval might disrupt that effort.

Too many adjustments might additionally damage his electoral possibilities subsequent 12 months, Fleming added, as McKee and different candidates will seemingly start to hunt help when extra critical campaigns start this fall. (McKee has but to formally announce, however he instructed 12 Information he intends to introduce himself.)

“You do not need too many individuals to be upset with you,” Fleming stated. “He should attempt to create coalitions if he desires to run in 2022.”

One place that may most definitely change into open, nevertheless, is that of lieutenant governor. McKee has the ability to decide on who occupies his place and politicians are already speeding behind the scenes for help.

Senator Louis DiPalma, D-Middletown and former Central Falls mayor James Diossa have each expressed curiosity within the job, and it is doable that McKee’s allies from his time as mayor are within the combine. . The names proposed embody the Mayor of Johnston, Joseph Polisena, and the Mayor of North Windfall, Charles Lombardi.

“I would not be stunned if he accompanied one of many mayors,” Fleming stated.

It is also doable that McKee would select a member of the enterprise group, as his background and most up-to-date work has revolved round small companies. In 1986, McKee and his brothers took over McKee Brothers Oil from their father. The corporate has been within the household for over a century and McKee continues to be its vice chairman, in keeping with his newest ethics temporary.

Since turning into lieutenant governor, McKee has spent a lot of his time selling and defending the pursuits of small enterprise. Through the pandemic, he used the workplace as an intimidating chair to name for better help for the enterprise group, typically criticizing Raimondo for not being versatile and conscious of the wants of householders.

Requested about his biggest achievement as lieutenant governor, McKee confused his help for the enterprise group, particularly through the pandemic.

“That is most likely the spotlight,” he stated.

Eli Sherman ([email protected]) is a Goal 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Join with him on Twitter and on Fb

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