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PROVIDENCE, RI — Rhode Island's top leadership is once again endorsing a more unified approach to top state offices. On Thursday, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos said she hoped to one day see a shared gubernatorial ticket to allow for greater collaboration between the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor.
"Right now, we are working together to make sure we answer the call," Matos said at Thursday's COVID-9 news conference, adding that she hoped that one day the two offices will be elected as a ticket.
Gov. Dan McKee has also emphasized the importance of the two offices working in partnership since he took the helm as governor in March.
Matos was specifically referring to the transition at the Rhode Island Department of Health. Following the departure of Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, Matos' chief of staff, Ernie Almonte, was dispatched to the department to offer assistance to the new interim director. McKee's office also sent a staff member, Deputy Chief of Staff Chris Abhulime.
The lieutenant governor said she was "especially proud" of her chief of staff for stepping up to the challenge.
McKee and Matos' partnership is an unusual one for the state. Under the state constitution, candidates run separately, and therefore don't always share priorities or even the same political party. After former Gov. Gina Raimondo stepped down to serve in the Biden administration, McKee took her role, leaving the office of the lieutenant empty.
Matos was chosen from a large pool of applicants, hand-picked by the governor's office following a lengthy interview process. Since her inauguration, both she and the governor have stressed that their offices work in tandem.
The partnership is a far cry from the Raimondo administration. While it was never openly discussed, it was clear the governor did not work closely with her lieutenant. While Matos attends nearly all public news conferences with the governor, McKee was absent from the frequent COVID-19 briefings held by Gov. Raimondo and Dr. Alexander-Scott.
At least one lawmaker thinks it is time for Rhode Island to make a change. Following McKee's transition to governor last spring, Sen. Roger Picard introduced a resolution calling for a referendum question, allowing voters to decide if the governor and lieutenant governor should be elected as a ticket. The legislation was held for further study in committee.
"The possibility of a transition always exists, so it would make sense for the governor and lieutenant governor to be partners from the start," Picard said at the time. "Working as a team would make for a seamless handoff, and would assure voters that priorities aren't going to change midterm if there is a transition."