With Governor Gina Raimondo about to exit, Lt. Governor Dan McKee created a website, mckeetransition.com, to accept applications for anyone wanting to be lieutenant governor. He also placed Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena in charge of screening the applicants. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey indicated that any appointment would require Senate confirmation.
Local historian and R.I. Republican National Committeeman Steven Frias stated: “The last time the office of lieutenant governor became vacant was in 1997. Senate Democrats opposed Governor Lincoln Almond’s plan to fill the vacancy through an appointment. In fact, Senate Democrats passed legislation that would have required the office of lieutenant governor to remain vacant and made any appointment or nomination for lieutenant governor null and void (Senate Bill 97-S0057; Senate Journal 1/21/1997). Senators Maryellen Goodwin and Polisena sponsored the legislation and Senators Dominick Ruggerio and McCaffrey voted for it. Back then, some Democrats like R.I. Democratic Party Treasurer Jack McConnell argued: “Rhode Island taxpayers should not have to bear the full burden of funding for an office for an individual they did not elect and for an unknown agenda that they have not approved.’”
R.I. Republican Chairwoman Sue Cienki commented: “The last time the office of lieutenant governor became vacant, Ruggerio, McCaffrey, Goodwin, and Polisena all wanted the office not to be filled. Mayor Polisena should be recommending to McKee to make no appointment. Senate leadership should be telling McKee they will not confirm his nominee. What has changed? Nothing except the party affiliation of the governor who wants to make the appointment, and the party affiliation of person the governor would like to appoint. Actually, one other thing is different now. Unlike in 1997, Rhode Island is facing an estimated $500 million budget deficit. To get through this fiscal crisis, the taxpayers do not need more patronage spending. Senators, be consistent. Save the taxpayers a million dollars.”