McKee, Dems expected to unite after controversial primaries

Governor Daniel J. McKee, second from right, will face Republican candidate Ashley Kalus, third from right, in the Nov. 8 gubernatorial election. / PBN PHOTO/JAMES BESSETTE

PROVISION – Following Governor Daniel J. McKee’s narrow victory for the Democratic nomination for governor in Rhode Island, observers expect a controversial Democratic campaign trail to end as former opponents unite as a party.

McKee won the nomination by a narrow margin, with former CVS Health Corp. president Helena Buonanno Foulkes in second place after a late rebound in poll support. Current RI Secretary of State, Nellie M. Gorbea, long considered McKee’s greatest opponent, finished third.

Far behind in fourth and fifth place respectively were former RI Secretary of State Matt Brown and community organizer Dr. Luis Daniel Munoz.

Ashley Kalus, a businesswoman and political newcomer, overwhelmingly defeated Jonathan Riccitelli for the Republican nomination for governor.

After coming out of a crowded field in the primaries, McKee may switch to more center-oriented politics in his general election campaign, though probably not dramatically, said John Marion, executive director of Common Cause RI

“Political science tells us that after the primaries, candidates tend to move to the center to appeal to the mass electorate that will vote in November,” Marion said, “versus the partisans who are in the primaries voted.

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“But in Rhode Island, Democrats enjoy an overwhelming advantage in party registration,” Marion continued, “so McKee, unlike (candidates) in a traditional swing state, probably won’t go that far to the middle.”

Fewer polls within the state have made it more difficult to determine where the candidates are in popularity, Marion said, but this large number of registered Democratic voters within the state and the traditional advantages of incumbents give McKee a natural edge.

But that doesn’t mean Kalus doesn’t stand a chance, Marion said, especially because “she appears to have significant cash.” McKee, meanwhile, is participating in a public funding program, which limits how much he can spend on his campaign.

Wendy Schiller, a political science professor at Brown University, said Democrats must unite to ensure McKee’s victory, adding that if Kalus gets enough funding and national support, she could pose a threat to McKee.

In addition, Schiller said, a low turnout in Providence due to the already decided mayoral race could hurt McKee’s chances.

“Democrats have a challenge on their hands,” Schiller said. “They really need to mobilize voters to hold onto the governorship.”

To defeat Kalus, she continued, “they will really have to argue that the National Republican Party is too far out of step with Rhode Island and that it is dangerous to have them in office.”

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The final results caused some Democrats, including Gorbea, to quickly turn to rally behind McKee in the general election.

“Congratulations (McKee) on your win!” Gorbea said in a Tweet Tuesday night. “With so much at stake, we need to make sure you win in (November).”

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, who had supported Foulkes, said her loss “really hurt,” but also said he would support McKee in the general election.

“We all have to,” said Elorza.

Foulkes called the McKee campaign as the incumbent governor delivered his victory speech, but McKee declined to answer her call, saying “No, that’s not going to happen” and “Hang up, hang up,” in the televised event.

Foulkes later told supporters she was “unhappy” with McKee’s refusal to answer the call.

But Marion expects the ongoing discomfort to be short-lived.

“I think it’s normal for there to be tensions between the campaigns after the contested primaries,” said Marion, who noted the same discomfort in 2014, “but eventually they unite around the nominee, and we have no indication that they ultimately do not.” will do.” unite.”

The Foulkes campaign did not respond to a request for comment and a Gorbea spokesperson said she was unavailable on Wednesday. The Kalus campaign also did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

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But Kalus criticized McKee’s handling of education and inflation in an ad released Wednesday, stating, “The McKee-Biden agenda is failing us.

“We are being killed at the pump, food prices are soaring, utility bills are skyrocketing and the dream of owning a house is out of reach for many,” Kalus said.

McKee spokesman Alana O’Hare said the incumbent governor “feels energized and grateful after his primary election win,” indicating there are no plans to slow down the campaign path.

“He looks forward to continuing his work as governor,” O’Hare said, “and meeting with voters in every city and town to get his message out before the general election.”

The general election will take place on November 8.

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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