“To tackle the mistrust people have in government, you need to put into office trustful leaders. Government needs to be transparent because you are supposed to be working for the people. I want to make government work for the citizens of Rhode Island,” Nellie Gorbea, Democratic candidate for secretary of state, said Thursday morning in an interview.
Gorbea’s campaign is built on trust, transparency and making government more accountable and accessible.
Gorbea, 47, grew up in Puerto Rico but came to the U.S. to attend Princeton University where she graduated with a degree in public and international affairs. She continued her education at Columbia University, where she earned a master’s degree in public administration. She was executive director of HousingWorks RI before leaving her position to devote all her time to her campaign for Secretary of State.
She has been living in Rhode Island for more than 20 years and said she has fallen in love with the state.
“I love Rhode Island,” she said. “I am optimistic for the state. We can do great things here.”
From 2002 until 2006, Gorbea served as Deputy Secretary of State under Matt Brown.
“I know what I am walking into because I have been there before,” she said. “I could run that office today if you put me in there because of all of my experience.”
The years she served as deputy were crucial because the State House was transferring all of its information from paper to the Internet. She helped to ease the voter registration process, consolidate the filing process for small businesses and make governmental information more available to citizens to encourage civic participation.
“Government can do good things for the people,” Gorbea said. “We need to restore people’s faith in our political systems because we need quality government to have a thriving community and economy.”
Gorbea believes that the government is being held back because the public is losing faith in the system.
When she announced her candidacy she also disclosed her income taxes for the past five years so voters can she what she makes, where she’s been and what she is invested in.
“I want to make it easy to understand the way government works,” Gorbea said. “If you don’t know what your government is doing, you can’t interact with it.”
She also believes a lack of diversity among politics can hold a government back.
“The best policy solutions come from discussions among people with diverse opinions, perspectives and backgrounds,” Gorbea said.
If elected, she would like to create a citizen’s hotline and an email address so people can become more informed. She believes that Rhode Island is in a unique position, because of its size, to have closer relationships between the public and its government.
To promote more civic participation, Gorbea wants to begin online voter registration and expand the public’s access to government records. She wants to make sure both executive and legislative lobbyists follow the same monthly reporting rules. So voters can see the top bills and initiatives lobbyists are supporting, she hopes to create a “Lobbying Data Dashboard” that will publicly disclose lobbyists’ activity.
“The people deserve to know what’s going on,” Gorbea said. “I’m not afraid of holding people accountable for their actions.”
She also wants to “streamline” processes for small businesses to let them expand and thrive. She would like to update a database so emerging and growing businesses can see the trends throughout the state and act accordingly.
Gorbea is the first Latina woman on the statewide ballot. If elected, she will be the first Latina woman to hold a statewide office in New England.
She has dedicated all of her time to her campaign, attending events across the state and going door to door to talk with citizens. She has “earned” all of her supporters, she said. She is not self-funding her campaign and has had at least one supporter from every municipality in the state.
She said her good government platform has been well received from the public, and her grassroots beginning has been an important aspect of her campaigning process.
“I have been traveling around Rhode Island and we have a rich and diverse state, but we are all facing the same issues,” Gorbea said. “I would be so happy to serve the people of Rhode Island. Seeing the support and momentum behind my campaign has energized me.”
She aims to change the perception of government by being the best example of leadership.
“I really just want to make government work for the people. It is humbling to know I am carrying the expectations of people and I am going to do my best to improve their lives,” she said.
Gorbea faces a Democratic primary on Sept. 9. Also running as a Democrat for Secretary of State is Guillaume de Ramel.
To learn more about Gorbea and her campaign, visit www.nelliegorbea.com. You can also follower her on Twitter under the handle @NellieGorbea, “like” her Facebook page or watch her debate with de Ramel on wpri.com.