PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Democrat Dan McKee was sworn in as Rhode Island’s 76th governor on Tuesday as former governor Gina Raimondo officially joined President Joe Biden’s cabinet as U.S. commerce secretary after winning Senate confirmation.
McKee, 69, has served as the state’s lieutenant governor since 2015. He will serve out the remaining 22 months of Raimondo’s four-year term.
McKee is a lifelong resident of Rhode Island who earlier served six terms as mayor of Cumberland, a town of about 33,500. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and education from Assumption College in Massachusetts and a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
He was sworn in about a year after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Rhode Island — a health crisis that overshadowed Raimondo’s final year as governor and will dominate McKee’s first.
“Since then, our world has been changed by a public health crisis that has tragically taken the lives of more than 2,500 Rhode Islanders,” McKee said in a statement Monday. “As we remember those we’ve lost, our hearts go out to their loved ones.”
McKee has been critical of the state’s vaccine rollout efforts under Raimondo, but said late last month Rhode Island was doing a better job of getting coronavirus vaccines into the arms of more people.
Dozens of candidates have applied to become the state’s next lieutenant governor, including current and former lawmakers, community activists, a one-time mayor, a TV weather forecaster and ordinary citizens. McKee will pick his successor.
McKee has also owned small businesses in the Blackstone Valley for three decades, and has been a member of the board of directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln for 25 years.
McKee succeeds Raimondo, 49, a fellow Democrat and former venture capitalist who served as state treasurer before becoming governor.
As commerce secretary, Raimondo’s job will be to help set the Biden administration’s trade policy and promote U.S. opportunities for growth domestically and overseas.
Raimondo had said she never pictured herself in Washington but was “deeply honored” by her nomination.
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