Sabina Matos just shook up Rhode Island politics in a big way

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 136,765 confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday, after adding 338 new cases. The most-recent overall daily test-positive rate was 2.7 percent, and the first-time positive rate was 20.9 percent. The state announced five more deaths, bringing the total to 2,618. There were 123 people in the hospital, and 214,764 residents were fully vaccinated.

Sabina Matos has been underestimated for her entire political career.She lost her first race for Providence City Council in 2006, but came back and beat a 28-year incumbent four years later. The Democrat slipped up as acting council president in 2017, but she won the gavel outright a year later. And even as she emerged as frontrunner to be lieutenant governor, there were plenty of people whispering in Governor Dan McKee’s ear telling him to go in a different direction.

Once again, she’s getting the last laugh.

McKee is expected to formally name Matos as his pick for lieutenant governor at a 10 a.m. press conference today. She still needs to be confirmed by the state Senate, but she isn’t expected to face much opposition.

As Rhode Island Liberator blogger (and prolific Twitterer) Sam Howard noted last night, Matos is the most “chaos-inducing pick” of the five finalists for lieutenant governor because her selection immediately shakes up the City Council and upends the races for mayor and lieutenant governor next year.

Here’s a quick look at how Matos is changing the entire political dynamic in Rhode Island.

Providence City Council

It turns out that you can’t be statewide officeholder and a councilwoman at the same time, so once Matos is confirmed, she’ll hand off the council presidency to Councilman John Igliozzi, the longest-serving member of Providence’s legislative body. It’s unclear if Igliozzi has the eight votes needed to be elected president, but it’s doubtful that anyone else has the votes right now, either. There will also be a special election for Matos’ seat in Ward 15, where Oscar VargasSantos Javier, and Doris De Los Santos are all considered potential contenders.

Providence mayor

Matos was term-limited on the council, so she was planning to run for mayor if she didn’t get picked by McKee. That means that Gonzalo Cuervo is currently the only Latino candidate who has announced a run for mayor, which should give him a leg up in a field that looks pretty East Side-heavy right now. Keep an eye on whether Matos will endorse a candidate in that race.

Lieutenant governor

Say one thing for Governor McKee: The lieutenant governor’s office has never been as interesting as it was over the last few weeks during McKee’s reality show selection process. Matos instantly becomes a favorite in the Democratic primary next year. Will she even have an opponent? Former state representative Aaron Regunberg was mulling a run, but Matos throws off his plans. It’s conceivable that Matos could be lieutenant governor for almost 10 years because she will finish out the rest of the current term and still have two four-year terms if she can win next year and again in 2026.


My colleague Ed Fitzpatrick has a great breakdown of how Matos might affect the race for governor. While McKee and Matos can’t formally run as a ticket without a change to the state’s constitution, it certainly appears that they’re going to look more like a package deal than we’ve seen in the past. Will that force other potential Democratic candidates, like Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, state Treasurer Seth Magaziner, and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, to find their own partners to run with?


⚓ Will selecting Sabina Matos to be lieutenant governor help or hurt Governor McKee when he’s on the ballot next year? Read more.

⚓ My rock star colleague Alexa Gagosz has a fascinating story on the effort to learn more about Mary Williams, the wife of Rhode Island founder Roger Williams. Read more.

⚓ Get ready for another discussion on redesigning Rhode Island’s license plates. Read more.

⚓ Faculty members affiliated with the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at the University of Rhode Island sent an e-mail to students recently, condemning statements by professor Donna Hughes that they describe as “anti-transgender.” The university itself issued a statement criticizing Hughes last week, and some students have been upset for some time. Read more. 

⚓ Brown University’s Timmons Roberts offers 10 reasons why the climate change bill that has now passed in the House and Senate is a big deal. Read more.


Health: Nearly six decades after Harvard University fired psychologist Timothy Leary for his unorthodox experiments with psychedelics, the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital has launched a program to study — this time, with scientific rigor — how these substances can affect the brain and potentially treat mental illness. Read more.

Poll: Most Massachusetts residents are satisfied with Governor Charlie Baker’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic even as his political foes have sharpened their knives, with strong majorities approving of his job performance and the direction of the state, a new poll by Suffolk University and The Boston Globe found. Read more.

Politics: James Pindell explains how President Joe Biden might deal with the Senate filibuster rule. Read more.

Business: A collection of condominiums at some of Boston’s swankiest addresses are part of a clash between warring factions of the Saudi regime, a power struggle with global political implications that also highlights Boston’s standing as a haven for international real estate investors. Read more.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at

⚓ BIRTHDAYS: Rhode Map readers, if you want a friend or family member to be recognized on Friday, send me an e-mail with their first and last name, and their age.

⚓ Governor McKee is holding a press conference at 10 a.m. to name Sabina Matos as his pick for lieutenant governor. They’ll also appear together in Pawtucket and Johnston later in the day.

⚓ The House Finance Committee will continue its public hearing on the proposed charter school moratorium. 

⚓ Do you ❤ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.