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Nellie Gorbea for Rhode Island governor

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea was re-elected in 2018 to serve Rhode Island for a second term and continue making government work for people. She made history when she was sworn in on January 6, 2015, becoming the first Hispanic elected to statewide office in New England. Since then, she has rapidly emerged on the national scene as a leader who is taking on some of the toughest issues and getting results. As Governor, Nellie would bring the same vision of integrity, inclusion, and effective leadership that she brought to the Secretary of State’s office to the Governorship of Rhode Island.

During her time in office, Nellie has transformed the Department of State from a filing cabinet to a nationally recognized hub of information that works for people. She has modernized Rhode Island’s elections infrastructure, increased cybersecurity measures, and brought both online and automated voter registration to the state. She has developed online resources and reduced red tape to make it easier for small businesses to start and grow. As a result of her work, a record number of new businesses were started in Rhode Island in 2020 despite the pandemic. Additionally, she instituted comprehensive lobby reform to reduce the power of special interests and make government more transparent. Nellie has a lifelong passion for encouraging civic participation.

As Governor, Nellie will continue working with diverse coalitions to solve problems and improve the lives of Rhode Islanders. Nellie will focus on local economic development, including helping small businesses grow after the effects of the pandemic. She’ll work to improve schools so our children can get a great education. She understands the need to build more affordable housing so young people, families, and our workforce can stay in Rhode Island. Nellie is determined to make Rhode Island a leader in renewable energy jobs as well as address climate change. If elected, Nellie would be the first Hispanic Governor in New England.

Before entering public service, Nellie founded the Rhode Island Latino Civic Fund and served on numerous other community boards. Prior to running for office, Nellie was the Executive Director of HousingWorks RI which provided compelling information on the need for affordable housing for the economic development of the state.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Gorbea is a graduate of Princeton University’s School of International and Public Affairs and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. She lives with her family in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.

A Better Rhode Island, Together

I am running for Governor because I know that we can have a Rhode Island with a robust and growing economy that is more equitable and just. That by investing in what we do best locally – our blue economy, our manufacturing, our hospitality and tourism, healthcare and our service economy, we can create an economy that works for all Rhode Islanders. By investing in our most important asset – our people, we ensure a better future for Rhode Island today.

Affordable Housing

Housing is the foundation upon which our economy will grow and strengthen. Rhode Islanders’ employment opportunities, educational outcomes, and the overall health of our community require safe, accessible, and truly affordable homes regardless of community or income.

Rhode Island needs more family housing, senior housing, single-room occupancy housing, and supportive housing for people with special behavioral or physical needs. Sustainably building these homes for the benefit of all Rhode Islanders requires cooperation between the state and local municipalities.

Why This Matters

To put this all in perspective, according to HousingWorks RI’s 2021 Housing Fact Book, in 2020 there was not one city or town in Rhode Island where families making the median yearly household income of almost $70k could “affordably buy” a home. For renters, only Burrillville provided the average Rhode Islander a place to affordably live. And currently, one of every three of all Rhode Island households are housing burdened (spending more than 30% of their income on housing).

Housing affordability is fast becoming an issue in many areas of our country but Rhode Island is uniquely placed to be the leader and first to solve this problem. In my vision for our state, we not only build more housing that is sustainable and maximizes our land use, we become the provider to our neighboring states of housing developers and contractors.

For decades, we made it difficult to build homes – especially family homes. Regulations, permits, fees and bureaucratic processes are at the heart of what we need to tackle if we are to increase the number of homes built. We cannot fund our way out of this problem – we need to fundamentally change the way we plan for and build housing in our state.

Main Priorities
  • Consistently fund the development of supportive housing for individuals experiencing homelessness and those who require ongoing behavioral health services.

  • Appoint a Secretary of Housing and Community Development who reports to the Governor and oversees a new coordinating agency of government. I will take an active, leading role, working with the General Assembly and municipalities, in coordinating housing policy and production to tangibly address the issue.

  • Work with state agencies, municipalities, nonprofit and for-profit home builders on a statewide process that simplifies and expedites the building of homes. Uncertainty and delays in the building process leads to increased costs. We can streamline permitting while ensuring that we build a diversity of home types and incentivize the building of energy-efficient homes.

  • Implement programs that incentivize the modernizing of multi-family properties. Work with municipalities to hold landlords accountable for properties that are not being maintained to code.

  • Create incentives that promote energy efficient practices in new home construction of both market rate and government subsidized housing.

  • Address expiring deed restrictions so affordable homes stay affordable. Work with cities and towns to stabilize rising property tax rates.

A Once in a Lifetime Investment

The infusion of funds provided by the Biden Administration gives Rhode Island an opportunity to truly provide solutions to the problems that have faced our housing sector for generations. The goal of finding a home for all Rhode Islanders requires that we must get this right.

We will strategically look at incentives to address municipal concerns that building family homes leads to a rise in property taxes. In doing this, we will reward our towns and cities with additional state funding for education and provide them with assistance to upgrade and increase their outdated sewer systems, water services, and other town financial responsibilities.

Rhode Island towns can then upgrade services to modernize and prepare for our future. This alleviates the burdens that additional growth puts on Rhode Island municipalities. Working with Rhode Island towns and cities in this way allows them to incorporate historic preservation and town character into growth plans that anticipate the future – shifting to renewable energy and incorporating greater access to broadband.

Connections with Housing
  • Jobs and Economy By putting housing policies first, we enable every Rhode Islander to have more spendable income and meet their daily needs more effectively. Plus, a thriving housing sector is a proven multiplier for economic growth in Rhode Island, providing opportunities for new small business and living wage jobs.

  • Environment The building and rebuilding of homes in our state gives us the opportunity to upgrade our housing stock while protecting our environment. We need to build homes that are energy-efficient, can easily use renewable energy, and are built with climate issues in mind.

  • Education A child who moves more than twice in a school year or who is homeless will have a much harder time keeping up in school. Keeping families in affordable homes is key to making sure our children can take advantage of what is offered in their schools.


As a mother of three children, I experienced firsthand how the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way families and educators look at education. I understand that the goal is not to return to the way things were, but to reshape what we do. We can transform education in Rhode Island by working together – teachers, parents, students, labor leaders, education professionals and elected officials. New federal funding gives us a unique opportunity to not only address post-pandemic learning, but to invest in our teachers, our educational infrastructure and implement ideas that previously died in the funding conversation.

My education plan begins by providing quality, early care and education for our youngest children. It continues by offering all students a challenging journey that prepares and supports them from kindergarten through high school graduation. After graduation, Rhode Islanders should be able to find affordable educational opportunities that prepare them to be a part of our economy – whether at our colleges and universities or at our career and technical training programs. Finally, we will provide adult Rhode Islanders with educational opportunities that help them adapt to changes in our society and economy.

Why This Matters

Transforming education in our state fuels hopeful opportunities for Rhode Island families. It requires leadership that works with educators, families, community organizations, and local government. It values our state’s diversity as the asset it is and uses it to improve education. It uses state resources to support our children and the people educating them.

Main Priorities
  • Support and pass a constitutional amendment for a “Right to A Quality Education”, which shows our state is clear on its priorities. This constitutional amendment holds us and future generations accountable for ensuring our children receive the education they deserve.

  • Become a national leader in providing high quality care and early childhood education for our youngest children by providing affordable, universal access to early childhood care and pre-K programs by the end of my first term.

  • Revise and update the state funding formula for public education to promote greater equity across communities for our K-12 students. ​​Fully support mental health care along with other emotional and behavioral health programs for students, teachers, and administrators.

  • Invest in our teachers. Education is a rapidly changing field. We need to support our teachers in adapting to the changes they are facing by providing them with professional development opportunities and loan forgiveness programs focused on improving the classroom experience for their students’ education. Expand the “Rhode Island Promise” program and invest in our higher education institutions. Ensure that we provide students not attending four year universities with options beyond high school to prepare them for their careers.

  • Use state and federal funds to fully fund school lunch and breakfast to children at all publicly funded schools. No child should go hungry. Meals can feed the body, the soul and the mind. Breaking bread with each other has been a long-time strategy for community building. Sustainably rebuild our schools for the demands of the future, with a priority given to Rhode Island firms for the architectural, design, and building services required.

Education After COVID 19

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed how families and educators look at education. This historic moment gave parents an up-close look at their students in the classroom through the challenges of virtual learning. Teachers had to quickly grapple with a whole new way of engaging with their students.

The lessons learned from the pandemic, combined with the new federal funding, enable us to leap ahead in providing an improved education to Rhode Islanders. For example, the federal funding provided to address post-pandemic learning gives us the opportunity to increase support to school districts across the state to extend the school day. To be successful in this effort requires working cooperatively with unions, school administration, after-school programs, transportation providers and communities to ensure that the public school system isn’t overly burdened, and all involved have a voice at the table.

By transforming education we come back to our state’s motto: Hope. Hope for connecting with each other across communities. Hope that we can learn from the hard truths of our past. Hope that we can learn in a variety of ways – through technology, arts, sports. And, yes, hope for economic security. In these times, we need our schools and educational institutions to receive the support needed to answer the call to provide us all hope.

Connections with Education
  • Housing Reliance on property taxes for school funding does not lead to an equitable distribution of money to schools in towns across the state. State government, working with municipalities, can find a path that is more equal to both students and taxpayers.

  • Jobs and Economy An educated Rhode Island is a thriving Rhode Island. Creating a state where our students are challenged and supported trains them for success after graduation. Successful schools naturally encourage positive growth by attracting families and the jobs that follow.

  • Environment Rhode Island can be a world leader in the envrinronmental economy by preparing its people for jobs in renewable energy, sustainable building, and the life sciences.

Climate Change

Because of Rhode Island’s size and geography, our economic future will always be tied to the environment and our climate. Climate change provides both opportunities in the area of renewable energy and challenges brought about by the receding shoreline and other climate impacts. I will make sure Rhode Island maximizes the advantages we have because of where we are located while also becoming a national leader in resilience to climate change.

As Governor, I look forward to enacting policies that support the “Act on Climate”, staying focused on the goal of net zero emissions by 2050. I will also work with our world-leading experts in academia as well as our cities and towns to ensure Rhode Island and Rhode Islanders are ready for what is to come. As Governor, I will make sure Rhode Island’s economy is prepared for climate change and benefits from and protects our environment.

Why This Matters

Addressing renewable energy, wind and solar, enables us to transition from fossil fuels to supporting smart electrification in our state. Helping us get to the goal of net zero emissions by 2050 will take careful decisions. For example, if we want to transition home heating in our state from oil to renewable energy, we need to recognize that changing oil heaters will require addressing both job displacement for those with existing oil based businesses and their workers and new costs to homeowners. The years ahead will require a Governor that promotes the economic opportunities of renewable energy while helping existing businesses, workers and property owners transition to these new opportunities.

Main Priorities
  • Prioritize the goals of the “Act on Climate” to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Create incentives in the development of housing that ensure developers build new construction with an eye to sustainability.

  • Promote the development of a renewable energy economy and work to regain our regional leadership in this important economic sector. ​​Partnering with unions and our education sector we can grow our apprenticeship programs that help provide the needed workforce.

Coastal Access for Rhode Islanders

I am proud to live in a state where access to the shoreline has always been a cherished right. From the beliefs of our indigenous community, our original residents, to the more recent constitutional right to the shoreline, Rhode Islanders have always valued access to the shore. As Governor, I will uphold this centuries old constitutional right by looking to sign updated legislation that supports shoreline access for all Rhode Islanders. I will also invest in improving government entities such as the Coastal Resources Management Council so that they can better monitor and support responsible shoreline access.

As the Ocean State, our shoreline is one of our most valuable assets. We need policies that help us manage this resource, responsibly growing the economic opportunity it provides while ensuring all Rhode Islanders can enjoy our shore.

Connections with Climate Change
  • Housing Communities such as Warren are already preparing for how rising sea levels will affect homes in their town. Working together with local municipalities, my administration will help our coastal towns assess risk and work to provide a safe shoreline for years to come.

  • Jobs and Economy The changing climate provides us with the opportunity to develop a world-class workforce and business sector in renewable energy, sustainable building, and life sciences. In many parts of this new economy there are opportunities to partner with labor to train and support our workers. The economic opportunities in climate change will require partnering between government, education, business and labor.

  • Education Rhode Island is the Ocean State. All Rhode Island students from grade school to college and beyond can benefit from educational programming that helps them become environmental and climate citizens of the future. If we prepare now, many of them can be leaders in this new economic sector and help us safeguard our state and our planet.