Providence City Council President Sabina Matos is officially Gov. Dan McKee’s pick for lieutenant governor. “I know Sabina will be a true partner in governing, who is prepared to work closely with our administration starting from day one,” said the governor in a State House press conference Wednesday morning.
The announcement comes after weeks of political speculation and comparisons to any pundit’s reality show of choice. McKee’s team had opened the process statewide, and received more than 75 applications for lieutenant governor. The four others who made the shortlist were Middletown State Senator Louis DiPalma, PVD Rep Grace Diaz, former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, and Elizabeth Beretta Perik, a notable Democratic party fundraiser. News originally broke of Matos as the nominee last night, with a press conference introducing her this morning in front of the State House on Smith Street.
Matos, if confirmed, will be the first Afro-Latina lieutenant governor in Ocean State history. She has represented Ward 15 (Olneyville and Valley areas) on the Providence City Council since 2010. She was elected president of the council in 2019. A first generation immigrant, Matos moved to the United States in 1994 from the Dominican Republic. Originally living in New York City, she moved to Rhode Island, where she graduated from Rhode Island College in 2001 with a BA in communications and public relations. She obtained United States citizenship in 2005.
The nomination throws chaos into a highly anticipated election year in 2022. Matos was term-limited in her council seat, and widely expected to run for mayor in the next cycle. Her appointment to a State House office takes her out of the running, leaving only three people running for mayor. The three mayoral candidates remaining are Brett Smiley, Gonzalo Cuervo, and Nirva LaFortunte. Councilman John Igliozzi is expected to become acting council president following Matos’ vacancy. Igliozzi is chairman of the powerful finance committee and has served on the council since 1997. It’s unclear if Igliozzi will have the support when a vote takes place for a permanent replacement. Ward 15 will also have a special election in the future at a date to be determined, the city’s third in two years.
Statewide, it remains to be seen if Matos will help McKee clinch another term as governor next year. Matos is a noted conservative Democrat, and similar to McKee, a big proponent of charter schools. The governor will be running as an incumbent next year, but still faces tough primary challenges from Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. The field for lieutenant governor is still primordial, with Aaron Regunberg being the only one to form an exploratory committee.
Matos now faces a confirmation process through the RI Senate, which will operate like a traditional Senate confirmation hearing. While it’s currently unclear which specific committee will be assigned the nomination process, that committee, when announced, will hold a review process, including a public hearing on the nomination. Once passed by the committee, the nomination goes to the Senate for a full floor vote. It is unknown what Matos’ timeline for confirmation looks like; as of this writing the RI Senate has not received the appointment from the governor.