CARI is proud to endorse Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea in the 2022 race for Governor of Rhode Island. Of all the candidates, Gorbea offers the best combination of experienced leadership, progressive values, and the ability to get things done to meet the challenge of the climate crisis.

In our interview with Secretary Gorbea, she was crystal clear about the urgency of state action to meet the targets of the Act On Climate. The Act requires a 45% reduction in all of Rhode Island’s fossil-fuel pollution by 2030—a huge transformation to our energy system. Gorbea pointed out that when the Act passed in spring 2021, environmental advocates (including CARI) came together to write an 8-page memo to the governor with a plan to implement the Act successfully with particular attention to the need for wide community input and environmental justice concerns. The incumbent Governor, although he has taken many positive actions on climate, did not respond to the memo. By contrast, Gorbea said she would have immediately adopted the memo’s recommendations.

Gorbea has also emphasized that the energy transformation is not just one issue on a laundry list, but rather a fundamental issue that cuts across policy in many areas: transportation, housing, education, jobs, and the economy. Gorbea’s comprehensive 19-page climate plan details her approach, which will factor climate action and environmental justice into every aspect of her governance. We encourage every climate voter to read Gorbea’s plan!

Gorbea’s record of accomplishment as Secretary of State is impressive. She ran our state’s elections efficiently and fairly, even during the pandemic challenge of 2020. She advocated effectively at the State House for increased voting access and lobbying reform. Finally, as a woman of color, she will break a color barrier in our governor’s office and bring a long underrepresented perspective to bear on all of our state’s challenges, which fall disproportionately on minority communities.

We would like to say a few words about the candidates that we chose not to endorse.

After a rocky start, Governor McKee has developed a strong record on climate. He signed the Act On Climate into law, appointed climate champion Terry Gray to lead the DEM and EC4,  increased the EC4’s meeting frequency, signed the 100% Renewable Energy Standard into law, and authorized a huge procurement of up to 1000 Megawatts of new offshore wind capacity. We applaud these significant achievements. However, we felt the Governor offered less urgency and fewer specifics about the state’s next steps on climate than Secretary Gorbea. We believe Gorbea will offer more dynamic leadership and even greater focus on an all-of-government approach to the energy transition.

Former Secretary of State Matt Brown was CARI’s endorsed candidate for governor in 2018. He speaks with more passion about the threat of climate change than any other candidate in the race. His organization, the RI Political Co-op, seeks an overhaul of state government in service of progressive goals—goals which we support. However, in our opinion, the Co-op’s tactics during the past two years have too often been divisive and hurtful to the climate movement. For example, they dishonestly attacked two of the Assembly’s strongest climate champions—Rep. Chris Blazejewski and Sen. Dawn Euer, whose multi-year coalition-building effort delivered the landmark Act On Climate law—and even mounted primary challenges against them. We are also concerned that Brown’s candidacy, polling in the single digits, has the potential to be a spoiler campaign for the most electable progressive in the race.

Brown has rightly criticized Gorbea for accepting a campaign contribution from Democratic donor Tonio Burgos, whose lobbying firm still includes fossil-fuel clients on its roster. However, we accept her explanation that she has known Tonio personally through Democratic Latino political networks for decades and that his donation signifies no connection or expectation whatsoever between Gorbea and the fossil fuel industry.

CARI did not receive questionnaire responses from candidates Daniel Luis Muñoz and Helena Foulkes.

We stand alongside Clean Water Action in endorsing Nellie Gorbea as the best choice for governor in the Rhode Island Democratic primary on Tuesday, September 13.


Lieutenant Governor

Upon completion of our candidate interview and vetting process, Climate Action Rhode Island is taking the unusual step of endorsing two candidates in the race for Lieutenant Governor: Sen. Cynthia Mendes and Rep. Deb Ruggiero. Both were endorsed by CARI for their legislative races in 2020. Both would be strong climate champions, albeit in different ways, in the LG position.

Sen. Mendes has been a strong CARI ally, participating in protests against fossil fuel funders such as Chase Bank and speaking passionately at CARI events. As a State Senator, she has supported CARI-endorsed climate and environmental justice bills. Cynthia’s engaging personality and willingness to take action, combined with her experience and policy ideas around environmental justice, have earned her an endorsement from CARI.

CARI also endorses Rep. Deb Ruggiero, who has a proven track record of leadership in passing critically important climate legislation as a representative in the State House. As the lead sponsor of the 100% renewable electricity bill (passed in 2022) and a co-sponsor of the Act on Climate (passed in 2021)—CARI’s top priority bills each year—Deb has an astute understanding of climate policy details and an ability to build consensus with legislators to pass climate legislation into law.

You may be asking: okay, but which candidate should I vote for? Your decision may come down to what qualities you value most highly in the Lieutenant Governor position: bold public communication about the urgency of climate action with a focus on environmental justice, or policy experience and a track record of legislative accomplishment. As an organization, we value both.

The incumbent, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, did not respond to CARI’s requests for an interview.


Congress, District 2

CARI enthusiastically endorses General Treasurer Seth Magaziner in the Democratic primary for Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District.

Action to address the climate crisis has been one of Treasurer Magaziner’s top priorities. As Treasurer, Magaziner led the State Investment Commission to cut our pension fund’s fossil fuel investments in half, and put us on track to be the first state to divest completely from fossil fuels, by 2030. He has also taken an active role in using Rhode Island’s shareholder power to hold corporations such as Archer Daniels Midland accountable for their climate impact. Magaziner has advocated for reducing Rhode Island’s carbon emissions—testifying for 2021’s Act on Climate—and in support of the job creation, environmental justice, and energy transition policies of the Green New Deal. Last but not least, Magaziner spearheaded the creation of the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank—a public/private funding stream for clean energy and energy efficiency that has been wildly successful. Since 2015, the RIIB has deployed over $700M in loans and grants across the state, creating over 17,000 jobs and over $150M in savings for local communities and businesses.

In Congress, Treasurer Magaziner will continue his work to create clean energy jobs that benefit Rhode Island’s unionized workers, frontline communities, and our environment. While several of the Democratic candidates impressed us with excellent climate platforms, Magaziner’s track record as a statewide elected official earned him CARI’s endorsement.

Magaziner’s strengths are even more apparent when contrasted with the record of so-called “moderate” Republican Allan Fung. Fung’s support for climate-denying, election-denying Kevin McCarthy to become the next Speaker of the House is not moderate. Fung’s public opposition to even the Joe Manchin compromise climate bill that President Biden signed into law is not moderate. His climate obstructionism is nothing new: in 2014, Fung opposed the Resilient Rhode Island Act—a bill that merely set voluntary emission-reduction targets for our state. When it comes to preserving our climate and safeguarding our children’s future, Allan Fung is not a moderate. Rhode Island must not send him to Washington.


General Assembly, Providence Mayor, and Providence City Council

CARI’s five regional Politics Teams have also endorsed over 50 candidates for State Representative, State Senator, and Providence municipal elections. To see those endorsements, visit this page.