Nellie Gorbea Could Become First Puerto Rican-born Governor in the U.S.

Nellie Gorbea Puerto Rico BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Governing Magazine.

What do Rhode Island and Puerto Rico have in common? For Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, there are indeed many things.

“My love affair with Rhode Island started right after I arrived,” Gorbea says in her campaign video for the governorship of the state. “Like my native Puerto Rico, Rhode Island is a small place where people are close and distances aren’t.”

A registered member of the Democratic Party, Gorbea announced last Sunday that she is running for governor of Rhode Island. If she wins, she would become the first Puerto Rican-born governor of a U.S. state.

Gorbea, 53, received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

As NBC News explained, in the late 1990s, Gorbea worked at the Puerto Rico Government Development Bank. She then served as deputy secretary of state from 2002 to 2006, when Matt Brown was secretary of state.

In 2015, Nellie Gorbea became the first Hispanic elected to statewide office in New England when she became secretary of state. She was re-elected to office in 2018, and her term ends next year.

“Yes, they elected the first Latina statewide official, but almost more important than that is that I performed, that I delivered on what they hoped I would do,” Gorbea told NBC News. “Many of them came up to me and encouraged me to run for governor.”

However, the race will not be an easy one.

As The Hill reported, Gorbea could face a crowded field of candidates in the Democratic primary, including Gov. Daniel McKee (D), the former lieutenant governor who took the reins after former Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) was sworn in as Commerce secretary by President Biden, and Treasurer General Seth Magaziner.

While Gorbea could become the first Puerto Rican-born governor of a U.S. state, she may not be the only Hispanic in the gubernatorial primary, as Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has the same position in his sights.

But it’s her track record that gives Gorbea the edge.

The candidate told NBC News that as secretary of state, she modernized Rhode Island’s election infrastructure, increased cybersecurity measures, and introduced online and automated voter registration in the state. In addition, she has developed online resources and cut red tape to make it easier for small businesses to start and grow.

“Rhode Island, like a lot of the country, is at a crossroads. We need to elect people into office that are willing to rethink how we’re doing government and make it, deliver it to the people,” she concluded.