GoLocal Endorsement for Democratic Candidate for Governor – GoLocalProv

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Sunday, September 11, 2022

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L-R: Dan McKee, Nellie Gorbea and Helena Foulkes PHOTOS: Respective campaigns

Over the past few decades, the quality of Rhode Island’s candidates for governor has, of course, ebbed and flowed.
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L-R: Dan McKee, Nellie Gorbea and Helena Foulkes PHOTOS: Respective campaigns
In 2022, however, we believe that those choosing to vote in the Democratic primary on Tuesday have three solid options — Helena Foulkes, Nellie Gorbea, and Dan McKee.   
Each candidate has accomplished much during their professional careers, and during the campaign, they have offered some solid ideas to advance Rhode Island.
Many of their plans are quite similar and, in some cases, nearly identical, which shows that there is a rough consensus among Democrats on what they see as needed to improve the Ocean State by making it more economically, educationally, and culturally competitive.
In our interviews with the three candidates, we were impressed by their passion and compelling commitment to the Ocean State.

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RI Secretary of State Gorbea PHOTO: Campaign

Nellie Gorbea

The tough and highly articulate Secretary of State Gorbea has presented a number of potentially productive ideas. One that particularly caught our eyes was about how to address the state and region’s very serious housing problem.  She has scoped out a concept for a training program for businesses to increase the number and quality of jobs for Rhode Islanders by building a skilled-trades workforce that could, among various roles, build homes in nearby Connecticut and Massachusetts as well as in Rhode Island. It’s a big idea that deserves greater exploration.
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RI Secretary of State Gorbea PHOTO: Campaign
But the past two weeks have created some doubts about her ability to manage the complexity of state government, especially in times of crisis.
Somewhere between her office and the Board of Elections, a series of mistakes have occurred relating to voting and preparation of ballots.
There appears to be enough blame to go around, but Gorbea, the state's “Chief Election Officer,” has been relentless in condemning the consultant — whom she hired — and the Board of Elections.


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Former Corporate Executive Foulkes PHOTO: Campaign

Helena Foulkes

Foulkes has had a notable career as a corporate CEO. She has played an important role in Woonsocket-based CVS's success over the years. She rightfully takes credit for helping to introduce such programs as the ExtraCare card and leading the way in banning tobacco sales at the chain.
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Former Corporate Executive Foulkes PHOTO: Campaign
She deserves kudos for both. They were good for business, and in the case of tobacco, for public health.
Yet sadly, she shrinks from her responsibility in CVS's role in the opioid crisis. Her claim that while in top leadership positions at the huge company, she “missed” the explosion of the very profitable sales of opioids for eight years stretches credulity.
She’s also very selective in what she discloses about her tenure as CEO at the Canadian retailer Hudson’s Bay Co.  The Toronto Star called her short-term stint there “turbulent.”
Three months before she left as CEO, The Toronto Star featured a story titled, “Eye-popping losses, a failed European expansion and a bid to go private — can Hudson’s Bay survive?”
But make no mistake about it, she is a highly articulate candidate with impressive skills, including, like the other two major candidates here, capable of being charming while possessing a potent and necessary competitiveness.
She has carefully outlined specific plans, with her top priority being education. Obviously, she knows firsthand about running a business in Rhode Island and the need for an educated workforce. Rhode Island’s biggest weakness is its under-educated workforce.


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Governor Dan McKee PHOTO: Campaign

Dan McKee

Gov. Dan McKee was thrust into office when Gina Raimondo left to become U.S. Commerce Secretary. Raimondo and McKee had a strained relationship, and she froze McKee out of the COVID response and other critical roles.
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Governor Dan McKee PHOTO: Campaign
He took over just days before the budget was due, the economy was in distress, and Rhode was ranked dead last in per-capita vaccinations.
McKee responded well.
He developed an effective strategy to get Rhode Islanders vaccinated and help restart the economy; the two budgets developed by his administration have been competent, if unspectacular.
While Foulkes promises improved education, McKee has actually led the creation of a program that works: His greatest accomplishment to date in his career is the Mayoral Academies — the brightest light in the Rhode Island school-reform effort so far.
As mayor of Cumberland, he seemed an unlikely candidate to transform the educational opportunities of many urban students (if far too few so far because of embedded political and union obstacles), but he did it. He has real credentials in improving education and, when necessary, in taking on the unions to do it.
McKee has been a welcome change from Raimondo in some important ways. He is very approachable. He has held lots of press conferences — something that Raimondo rarely did other than during COVID, and much of that time, she refused to answer news-media questions in public.
McKee has been criticized a bit unfairly by Foulkes because Raimondo appointees have left during his tenure. After all, Foulkes's campaign has had three leadership changes in fewer than ten months.
But yes,  McKee could have better handled the controversy around the ILO contract with more transparency and clearer and faster answers to news-media questions.

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PHOTO: GoLocal

Our Conclusion

All of the three major candidates for the governorship have had their failures in transparency, but then, these are imperfect people (being judged by an editorial board of imperfect people).
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PHOTO: GoLocal
One area in which we were disappointed not to have heard more from all three candidates was on how to make Rhode Island more business-competitive. We’re leery of the accuracy of rankings (too much-comparing apples and oranges, etc.), but still, being ranked 45th in the country by CNBC is embarrassing.
Each of the candidates deserves our respect for their willingness to “put themselves out there,” to be poked and prodded and to let all of us kick their proverbial tires.
In the end, we believe that both McKee and Foulkes could be successful governors, but McKee a little more. When he was thrust into a viciously difficult time, he responded calmly and thoughtfully.
McKee, somewhat in tone, timing, and policy approach, reminds us a bit of Harry S. Truman, that moderate New Dealer propelled into office by the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Indeed, you could call McKee a Truman Democrat, and that might be just what the state continues to need.  There’s lots of work to be done.
For the reasons outlined above, GoLocal endorses Dan McKee for governor.
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