Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee seems like a nice guy who has taken over the state during a difficult time and is working to get himself and his administration established as quickly as possible. The question remains whether McKee is ready for Prime Time or whether he will be the guy who for 18 months finished out the Raimondo term. In a recent interview on CH12, Mckee admitted the thing that surprised him the most so far has been “the media.” McKee seems to struggle with what will cut through and what it truly takes to own a news cycle. Last year, McKee tried to get the attention of Governor Raimondo in regards to small business but he never really made significant headlines or garnered much attention. During the transition to Governor, he scrambled together a Saturday briefing outside his home but the main objective seemed confusing. He said he would not release the names of the people applying to be the LT. Governor, until he got push back and released the names. He announced he would not release his Top Ten finalist until he reversed course and did. This week, the new Governor has kept a low-profile while scheduling his weekly Covid briefing up against the Biden press conference, and thus is not receiving much press coverage. Why would you schedule your briefing up against the first Biden presser? McKee has three young, limited experienced staff running his press office however one is a television reporter who has never handled political press and is out on maternity leave. He brought one press person along with him from the Lt. Governor’s office, (where he struggled to get much press). McKee hired another press person from the office of Mayor Elorza, who was largely out of sight during the pandemic and has never enjoyed good press. What is the plan? Mike Trainor is a solid respected veteran but he is working on the campaign. Maybe bring in a more seasoned pro? The state is still dealing with the pandemic and while it is true he has officially had the big office less than a month, his team has known since January this was happening. McKee is still unknown to most of the state and does not seem to be capitalizing on the opportunity he has been given to establish himself to the voters. Buddy Cianci, Bruce Sundlun, and Gina Raimondo knew how to dominate a news cycle and McKee would be wise to tale a page out of their books.
Lurking in the shadows is General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, who is already aggressively courting donors and support. Magaziner has money, can raise money, has the unions, and will have the Raimondo campaign apparatus. Magaziner is already telling some donors he is very confident he can beat McKee in the September 2022 Democrat primary and that McKee “should enjoy being Governor for 18 months.”The powerful unions may not carry a candidate in a General election but they can decide a Democrat primary, and Magaziner has the unions. One political insider noted,” Dan ought to campaign like his primary is this September, not next September.” Questions also remain on why Governor McKee still has Raimondo dead-weight running departments and sitting on boards. The Covid briefings look like he is still filling in for Governor Raimondo as he stands on stage with Dr. Scott and Secretary Pryor. Since Raimondo left town with less than a 40% approval rating, why would you keep her unpopular staff? The vaccine rollout has been a disaster and Pryor failed as Commerce Secretary with high unemployment, an empty downtown, and empty 195-land. What is McKee waiting for? Gina would have cleaned the house on day one. Although both Nellie Gorbea and Mayor Elorza are expected to run against McKee next year, it is Magaziner who poses his biggest challenge. If team McKee does not step on the gas, he will be a nice guy who was able to finish the Raimondo term and be Governor for 18 months.