Cumberland Mayor McKee wants Lt. Gov job

Cumberland Mayor Dan McKee kicks off his campaign for lieutenant governor in November 2013. (photo: Dan McGowan/WPRI 12)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Yet another Rhode Island mayor is seeking a promotion.

Cumberland Mayor Daniel McKee on Wednesday formally launched his campaign for lieutenant governor, becoming the third municipal leader to announce he will run for statewide office next year.

“As a mayor, I understand firsthand the detrimental effects state cuts to cities and towns have had on our residents,” McKee said during his campaign kickoff at the Neutaconkanut Recreation Center in Providence’s Silver Lake neighborhood. “And as lieutenant governor, I’ll help to create good paying jobs for Rhode Island families today, and to build a stronger economy so our communities thrive for years to come.”

McKee, a Democrat who has served six terms as mayor of Cumberland, joins Democratic Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Republican Cranston Mayor Allan Fung in running statewide. Taveras and Fung are running for governor. Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, a Republican, is mulling a run for lieutenant governor as well.

McKee, 62, is running to succeed incumbent Democrat Elizabeth Roberts, who is restricted by term limits from running again. McKee’s speech laid out a vision for making the lieutenant governor’s office “more meaningful,” saying he’d be an advocate for cities and towns, improving public education and “fair and equitable tax structures” that would make the state more competitive with its neighbors.

McKee also said he would push communities to regionalize public dispatch services while also supporting trade apprenticeship programs and small businesses.

“As our next lieutenant governor, I will stand with anyone who stands right on the important issues that we face in our great state,” McKee said. “And I will have the courage to part with anyone whose interest puts the people of Rhode Island on the wrong path.”

McKee, who graduated from Assumption College and earned his master’s degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, is best known for leading the charge to pass 2008 legislation that created mayoral academies, which oversee several publicly funded charter schools and are governed by a board chaired by a municipal leader. The schools are allowed to operate independent of a traditional municipal teachers union contract.

McKee is the chairman of the board for the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, which operates two elementary schools and one middle school for approximately 1,000 students in Central Falls, Cumberland, Lincoln and Pawtucket. Students are selected by lottery each year.

That support for school choice is likely to be met with opposition from the state’s teachers’ unions, which have long clashed with McKee over school reform. Earlier this year, several union leaders caused a stir when they asked the state Board of Education to consider revoking Blackstone Valley Prep’s charter because of confusion over the school’s expansion plan. No changes were made to the charter.

McKee, who reported $176,356 in his campaign account as of Sept. 30, is expected to be challenged in a Democratic primary by Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, a former mayor of North Providence. Mollis, who had $47,073 in his war chest Sept. 30, is term-limited from running for re-election next year. Mollis told Tuesday that he plans to make his formal announcement early next year.

Waiting in the wings could be Avedisian, the popular Warwick mayor who has expressed interest in running for lieutenant governor. Avedisian reported $33,226 in his campaign account as of Sept. 30.

McKee said he wants for Rhode Island what he said he has has brought to Cumberland: stronger schools, safer roads and improved financial security.

“It is not good enough just to get Rhode Island back on track,” McKee said. “It is time for Rhode Island to get on a new set of tracks.”

Dan McGowan ( ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan

Tim White contributed to this report.

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