RI Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea visits EPHS
Meets with Young Democrats Club
At the invitation of the Young Democrats Club of East Providence High School, RI Secretary of State, Nellie Gorbea visited and fielded questions from about a dozen club members. Young Democrats club president, Rodrigo Pimentel welcomed Gorbea to the after school meeting on Thursday, March 26th. "Thank you for inviting me. I'm appreciative of the chance to visit with you and describe the Secretary's role and mostly to hear from you," Gorbea told the group. "Basically I serve as the keeper of records for our state, sort of like a big file cabinet," she said. "Our office is involved with elections, corporations, state archives library and public information. People call our office with all kinds of questions," Gorbea added.
Gorbea, who is Puerto Rican, was one of two Democratic candidates running for Secretary of State in the last primary. Her primary opponent was Newport businessman Guillaume de Ramel. Gorbea served as Deputy Secretary of State and headed Housing Works RI. "I wasn't the favored candidate of the establishment and received only a few endorsements, but the process works and I was elected," smiled Gorbea. "I know," smiled a sheepish Representative Gregg Amore. "I was on that other side, but I have now seen the light," he laughed. Millionaire Guillaume de Ramel outspent Gorbea by a 2 to 1 margin but Gorbea who started out as a relative unknown, built upon a grass roots campaign to gain victories in the primary and General Election over Republican John Carlevale by a 60% to 39% margin. She is the first Hispanic candidate to win a statewide election in New England. "I'm fine with that whole process," she said. "I have everyone's support now."
"What are your views on voter I.D. laws," asked Rodrigo Pimentel. "Well during the campaign, I didn't think we needed them," Gorbea answered. "I think history shows that strict voter I.D. can work against the elderly, people of color and young people. Some people of low income don't have cars or passports, etc. There was a 5% lower voter turnout after the law passed and I would be curious to see if there was a connection. I don't know," responded Gorbea. State Representative Gregg Amore and social studies teacher at EPHS added that, "these students know their history of how some laws have caused voter suppression."
"What is your greatest accomplishment," asked another student. "Well I've only been in office for three months," chuckled Gorbea, "but I believe in transparency in government and I have somewhat of a public record so far. As a former deputy secretary of state and Housing Works RI Director, I have something to offer this office I believe," she told the young group. Gorbea said that she had helped to make the Secretary of State's office more efficient under former Secretary Matt Brown. "So I hope to build some accomplishments along the way to gain your acceptance."
"Was not being raised in Rhode Island a factor in your election," was another question. "I've lived here some 22 years now and I love this state," she said. "I am proud that I was raised in Puerto Rico and moved to the mainland to attend Princeton University. I got my Master's Degree in Public Administration at URI and my family lives in North Kingstown now," she explained. As the students nodded and laughed, Gorbea explained how "some in this country don't realize Puerto Rico is U.S. I see you all know this," she chuckled. "I am proud of my heritage and of all of Rhode Island," said the Ivy League educated Gorbea.
Asked how she felt about the voting booth master lever, Gorbea said she supports doing away with it. "I think it's pretty easy in this age of technology to just connect each arrow when voting. It helps to have better elections if one takes the time to read each candidate's name and cast a vote. And I think we'll always be looking for more efficient ways to vote," she said.
The group asked a few more questions and then gathered with Gorbea for photos and to present her with an EPHS shirt. Gorbea invited the group to a visit at the State House and seemed genuinely at ease with her young constituents. "Here is a state lapel pin and come visit me soon," she added.
The after school club activity is also assisted by social studies teachers Richard Martin and Michael Silva who were in attendance. As for the Young Democrats group president, Rodrigo Pimentel future plans. Yes, he is interested in a political career someday. "Yes, I intend to be active in politics and someday would like to run for office," said the affable group leader. "I hope to see that happen," said Gorbea as she wished the young student good luck. Pimentel will be attending URI for computer science after graduation.