McKee, Kalus trade barbs in first TV debate for RI governor

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The two leading candidates for Rhode Island governor traded fire and defended their policy stances on Tuesday night as they met for their first televised debate ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

Democratic Gov. Dan McKee, who is running for the job in his own right after taking over from Gina Raimondo last year, made the case that his administration has put the state on a sound footing during his 20 months in office.

But McKee faced a barrage of criticism from Republican challenger Ashley Kalus, a first-time candidate, who assailed the incumbent over an FBI investigation into a state contract, proposed pay raises for his cabinet members and other issues.

McKee fired back at Kalus, casting her as a carpetbagger who only came to Rhode Island last year after his administration awarded her a multimillion-dollar COVID contract, then ran against him as “retaliation” after the state decided to end the deal.

The pair also shared their views on a host of policy issues, including rising energy costs, abortion, the state’s housing crisis, truck tolls and more.

(Three independent candidates are also on the ballot for governor — Elijah Gizzarelli, Zachary Hurwitz and Paul Rianna — but did not qualify for the debate under Nexstar Media Group’s nationwide criteria.)

In the videos below, you can watch some of the key exchanges during the debate, which was moderated by 12 News reporters Tim White and Ted Nesi. The full one-hour video is also available here.

See videos and