PROVIDENCE — Gov. Dan McKee declared victory Tuesday night, after taking a lead over former CVS leader Helena Foulkes in the five-way Democratic primary contest for governor on Tuesday night.
Here’s what we know so far about the nail biter of the night:
With 95 of the 395 constituencies reported, McKee had 32.5% of the vote and Foulkes – a virtual political unknown until she announced her candidacy for governor last October – 30%.
Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea trailed, with 26.3% of the tally. Neither Matt Brown nor Luis Daniel Munoz landed 10%.
By this point, the vast majority of mail-in ballots cast had made it into the tally, with the 5,281 mail-in votes counted for McKee propelling him into the lead after a night of seesaw.
But Foulkes didn’t back down at first.
At 10:16 p.m. she released this statement: “Democratic primary voters cast their ballots in a critical election that will decide the future of our state. Thousands of those votes have yet to be counted. This election is still too call, and we owe it to voters to make sure every ballot is counted.”
By then, a number of cities and towns – including Providence and McKee’s hometown of Cumberland – had not declared 100% of their votes. Cities and towns also have until noon Wednesday to deliver mail-in ballots placed in drop boxes.
Foulkes later told her supporters that she tried to call McKee to concede, but the governor – the mid-victory speech – did not respond to her call.
The ultimate winner will face Republican candidate, Ashley Kalus in November. Kalus crushed his main opponent, Jonathan Riccitelli – in November.
In a live interview with WPRI after the polls closed, Kalus said, “This year everyone understands that this is about the future of the state… What I’m hearing, it’s that voters are looking for a person rather than a party and they want change.”
“Failed career politicians like Governor McKee continue to represent the worst of our state,” said Kalus, who moved to Rhode Island last year. “He and his administration are perpetuating a system that puts insiders, special interests and lobbyists ahead of the hardworking people of our state.
For nearly an anxious hour, McKee supporters gathered at the Renaissance Hotel across from the State House, glued to their cellphones as the results came in showing Foulkes uncomfortably close and narrowly leading for a time.
But as 9 p.m. approached, McKee’s lead stretched to nearly 3,000 votes with 91% reporting from the precinct and the mood lifted with the first hoots spreading through the room. ball.
That was the big question leading up to primary day:
Governor Dan McKee to be able to retain the position he inherited, as Lieutenant Governor, when Governor at the time. Did Gina Raimondo resign mid-term to become US Secretary of Commerce in March 2021?
A defeat for McKee would make him the first sitting governor to lose a Rhode Island primary since Myrth York defeated Gov. Bruce Sundlun in a 1994 Democratic primary, before losing to Republican Linc Almond.
A victory of Gorbea would have given him a shot at becoming the first Hispanic governor in Rhode Island’s history and the first Puerto Rican-born governor on the mainland.
Foulkes, who once ran CVS Health’s pharmacy empire, has always been a wildcard, with a stellar resume as chairman of the board of supervisors at Harvard University and a former top executive at one of RI’s biggest companies. She also had a seemingly endless amount of money for commercials, including $1,195,000 from her own pocket.
And she won plaudits for her performance in both live TV debates.
Gorbea repeatedly needled Foulkes for a $500 contribution in 2014 to Republican U.S. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, which Foulkes called a mistake motivated by his company’s attempt to cross the aisle to save the law on affordable care.
black horse candidate Luis Daniel Munoz issued the harshest criticism of Foulkes, after praising his role in CVS’s decision to ‘put people before profit’ and pull cigarettes from shelves at a $2 billion loss of income.
Muñoz’s take on the movement: “You took cigarettes off the shelves and pushed pills onto the streets,” he said, referring to CVS’s role in the opioid crisis.
In the final days, McKee took the line of attack, accusing Foulkes of enriching himself by “injecting opioids into our homes.”
As the final month approached, it appeared that McKee was in a statistical “tie” with Gorbea.
But the last public poll showing the race closed came weeks before Gorbea – the state’s chief electoral officer – was mobbed by a series of headlines that no candidate would want.
The most serious went to the heart of his responsibility as the state’s Chief Electoral Officer, when it emerged that the Spanish language was displayed on the new touchscreen vote-tagging devices being used by voters in Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls and Woonsocket list of candidates 2018.
Gorbea blamed the state Board of Elections and the company it hired to supply the new ExpressVote machines.
But controversy followed her through the final week of the primary race, along with alleged campaign law violations in the “Who’s Worse?” announces that his Latino Victory Fund backers have broadcast on his behalf.
McKee had his oft-repeated data points: the lowest unemployment rate in state history, the fastest pandemic recovery in the Northeast, and the second fastest in the nation. His pitch: “Leadership when it matters most.”
But McKee has been sued throughout the controversy surrounding his administration’s award of an education consultancy contract worth up to $5.2 million to the new ILO group to help reopen schools despite a rival company’s offer to do the job for millions of dollars less.
Many ILO leaders have worked for Chiefs for Change, an educational nonprofit headed by Mike Magee, who was part of McKee’s transition team and helped found the Governor’s Charter Schools in Cumberland.
The revelation that federal investigators served an ILO-related subpoena on the University Club earlier this summer led Gorbea to say the McKee administration is “so corrupt” that the FBI is investigating.
As moderator of the latest televised debate, WPRI’s Tim White reminded the candidates: there is no evidence that McKee is the target. But McKee did himself a disservice by refusing to say whether his administration had been subpoenaed.
McKee’s opponents also beat him to his deciding vote as chairman of the state’s economic development agency on a $60 million public funding package for the proposed football stadium in Pawtucket, before a report surfaced that predicted the stadium would not be bring in enough tax revenue to cover the debt.
Over the past week, as mud flew in all directions, Gorbea and Foulkes even blamed McKee for the Labor Day freeway flooding that shut down Route 95.
But most state unions — including construction unions — were on McKee’s side, knocking on doors and spending big bucks on ads and mailings for him.
As they tabled their final pre-election reports, the candidates had spent more than $11.2 million to become the next governor of Rhode Island.
Foulkes was approaching $4.1 million; McKee, nearly $2.2 million; Gorbéa, $2.1 million; Brown, $580,000 and Munoz, $19,128.
Ashley Kalus, the Republican frontrunner, spent nearly $2.3 million, most of her own money.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face whoever wins the GOP contest — Kalus or Jonathan Riccitelli — in November’s general election, when there are also three independents on the ballot: Elijah J. Gizzarelli, Zachary Baker Hurwitz and Paul A.Rianna Jr.
On primary day, an affiliate of the Democratic Governors Association ran an ad attacking Kalus, the presumptive GOP nominee, as an “out of touch” candidate “backed by anti-choice extremists,” who “has recently moved to Rhode Island”.
Kalus, who moved to RI last year, tweeted this response to the Alliance for a Better Rhode Island announcement: “DC Insiders and Elites are already attacking me on TV on behalf of Governor McKee .
“They’re obviously scared. They want to distract you from McKee’s failed record. We have a unique opportunity to change course in Rhode Island. #LetsGo.”
Coming out of the Cumberland school where he and his wife, Susan, voted on Tuesday morning, McKee told a few gathered reporters that he felt “good, great” as election day began.
“We ran a very good campaign and did what I said we would do, which was run the state of Rhode Island and sign the [state] budget before I launched the campaign and we have had momentum since.
Governor Dan McKee’s supporters began gathering around 7:30 p.m. in the ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel across from the State House.
And one of the first to arrive was one of McKee’s former opponents.
Joel Hellman, 63, of East Providence ran against McKee four years ago for lieutenant governor as a moderate, he said. Hellman lost, as did several other candidates. But after the election, Hellman said, McKee invited all his opponents to lunch.
“He wanted to hear all of our best ideas,” Hellman said, “and that’s why I’m supporting him now, because someone asked my opinion. That’s how we’re going to solve the problems of this state, with everyone sitting and listening to each other.”
Another McKee supporter at the Renaissance Hotel was Dola Ade, a registered nurse from East Providence, who moved to Rhode Island from Nigeria more than 26 years ago.
She supports McKee, she said, because “he’s the only governor I’ve seen who has reached out to the minority community to help their small businesses succeed. That’s what’s really important. .
“He recognizes – and understands – that we have different cultures here. I’ve seen him go to other churches and mosques and I’ve never seen that happen. So that’s the story of my life. “
With reports by Tom Mooney