McKee, Kalus trade barbs in debate for Rhode Island governor

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The two leading candidates for Rhode Island governor traded fire and defended their policy stances 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-19 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 and truck tolls.

(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.)

The videos below show some of the key exchanges during the debate, which was moderated by Tim White and Ted Nesi, reporters for NewsNation affiliate WPRI. The full one-hour video is also available here.

Skip to a topic: Utility rate hikes | Abortion rights/funding | Raises for McKee’s cabinet | ILO Group investigation | Kalus’ residency | Rapid-fire questions/pop quiz | Housing crisis | Education | Biden and Trump | Truck tolls | Say something nice | Closing statements

Utility rate hikes

Abortion rights and funding

Raises for McKee’s cabinet members

ILO Group investigation

Kalus’ residency

Rapid-fire questions and pop quiz

The housing crisis

Education and release of RICAS scores

Biden and Trump in 2024

Truck tolls

Say something nice about your opponent

Closing statements

Ted Nesi contributed to this report.