By Nicole Acevedo, NBC News
Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea is running to become the state’s next governor in 2022. Gorbea, a Democrat, is the first Latina to run for governor in New England. If she wins, Gorbea would also be the first Puerto Rican governor in the mainland. Gorbea, 53, is no stranger to making history in public office. In 2015, she became the first Hispanic elected to statewide office in New England when she became secretary of state. She was re-elected to the position in 2018, and her term ends next year.
“Yes, they elected the first Latina statewide official, but almost more important than that is that I performed, that I delivered on what they hoped I would do,” Gorbea told NBC News. “Many of them came up to me and encourage me to run for governor.”
Gorbea said that as secretary of state, she modernized Rhode Island’s elections infrastructure, increased cybersecurity measures and brought both online and automated voter registration to the state. She has developed online resources and reduced red tape to make it easier for small businesses to start and grow.
“It’s being able to deliver an election during a pandemic where everybody who was eligible to vote could vote in a safe and secure manner, or having record numbers of businesses incorporate during the year of the pandemic, because we had already prepared ourselves with online systems and training to make sure that we could do that,” Gorbea said.
“Rhode Island, like a lot of the country, is at a crossroads. We need to elect people into office that are willing to rethink how we’re doing government and make it, deliver it to the people,” she said.
Gorbea is entering a crowded Democratic primary race that’s expected to include the incumbent, Gov. Daniel McKee; General Treasurer Seth Magaziner; and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz, an independent, has already announced that he will run as a Democrat, The Boston Globe reported.
McKee, a former lieutenant governor, replaced Gina Raimondo as governor in March when she became secretary of commerce in the Biden administration.
When asked how she plans to stand out in what’s anticipated to be a packed race, Gorbea confidently responded, “I am the only candidate who’s actually transformed an agency of government in Rhode Island, and that’s something that nobody else has done.”
Gorbea said some of her constituents approach her, even when she’s out grocery shopping with her mask on, to thank her for how well the 2020 election went amid the pandemic and for providing more online resources to make it easier to start or maintain a small business.
Additionally, Gorbea overhauled lobbying laws to hold special interests accountable when they don’t follow the law, ensure better compliance so the public can see who is influencing their government and enhance transparency.
“What comes next is a turning point in the history of the state and in the history of our country because we need to build things in a fundamentally different way,” Gorbea said. “The government structures that were created in the ’80s and ’90s are not going to help us handle our cyber challenges” — an issue that rose to prominence this month when Colonial Pipeline, the largest fuel pipeline in the U.S., was forced to shut down operations after one of the most disruptive cyberattacks in U.S. history.
Click here to read the full article on NBC News.