Carol Anne Costa: Gorbea is Pitch Perfect

Thursday, November 20, 2014


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Photo: Nellie Gorbea

I come from a party which is rich in historic and bruising political food fights and knock down drag out primaries which lead into nasty general elections where the candidates left standing remind me of the blood soaked Rocky Balboa screaming, “cut me, Mick”. Too often the process causes voters to crouch into fetal position, with hands over their ears every time they tune in to TV, radio, and now the internet. The fatigue of the election cycle manifests itself in apathy, anger, and the devastating collateral damage of quashing many a civic minded soul who may want to serve their city, town, state, or country through elective office. 

So, as we sit 3 weeks past general election, the noise subsiding and the transitions underway, can we take away a ray of hope from our election process? I submit yes, in two words - Nellie Gorbea. She is a fresh face and a smart and talented woman. But more, she is the long shot that beat the field, as all the political handicappers had her coming out of the gate 50-1 odds and as she crossed the finish line she dragged an impressive bit of history with her, as the first Hispanic elected to Rhode Island Statewide office. She beat the field, the odds, and the pundits with an honest, straight forward, mission driven march to the election. A campaign void of vitriol and filled with facts. Nellie hit the right tone at every turn and ran a campaign that was a remarkable success. 

Nice Gals Finish First

A primary and a general election that were each hard fought, honest, and won with boots on the ground retail politics. Note to future candidates and even poli sci students; people like to meet, greet, and talk to candidates running for office. Rhode Islanders, in particular, adore a home grown campaign. Nellie Gorbea in my view was pitch perfect, “a ca-mazing” if you will. She bucked every trend and introduced herself the old fashioned way and voters responded. She proved that war chests and high priced consultants are not always the end all and be all of a grassroots effort to engage the voters. Her political advertisements resonated with the voters, as one friend told me, “Her ads were nice, informative, and told me a lot about her.” 

Timing and luck don’t hurt either and Nellie benefited from those intangibles as well. This diminutive powerhouse pulled it all together and I cannot wait until her campaigning and people skills are brought to bear at the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s Office. It is a new day for RI and for the Democratic Party. Nellie brings an impressive resume, degrees from Princeton and Columbia, and a spark to begin the task of re-energizing the office which oversees our elections, corporations, open meetings, lobbying database, and oversight, State Library, Archives, and is the keeper of the records for the State of Rhode Island. No small undertaking, but I remain convinced her intellect, analytical prowess, and passion for data driven change will reap strong returns for the people in transparency, customer service, and election improvements. 

Looking Ahead

We know that Gorbea’s plan is to make elections fair, fast, and accurate but, it is within the path she has begun to craft is clearly based in evidence, collaboration, innovative resource utilization and analysis of procedures and data. As Nellie will lead the charge to clean up the voter rolls we can see her initiative to use resources and engage directly with the all too often over burdened town canvassers and clerks who are the wealth of knowledge in the vote role equation. By establishing an elections fellows program, where college students interface with and examine data with the clerks and canvassers at the grassroots exhibits the true understanding of process. She has also indicated the desire to modernize our voting equipment. I concur, as our voting machines and optical scanners have grown old and tired, technology has boomed and the time is now to harness that innovation and proper procurement of those machines should emanate from the Secretary of State’s office. The blurred lines which exist between the Board of Elections and Secretary of State’s office must be addressed in the Gorbea administration and based on her tone and direction, I see that in our future as well.

Nellie is no stranger to the office as her service as Deputy Secretary of State from 2002-2006 will no doubt let her hit the ground running come January, and I for one am eager to see her reshape and reinvigorate the Office of the Secretary of State. But, it is what Nellie told me recently that has me so buoyed by her election, “It is not about plans or mission, it is about the people.” 

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Carol Costa is a public relations and community outreach specialist; she has experience in both the public and private sectors. She is the Chairwoman of the Scituate Democratic Town Committee and has extensive community affairs and public relations experience. She previously served in the Rhode Island Judiciary for nearly 17 years. Carol also enjoyed a successful development stint at the Diocese of Providence as Associate Director for Catholic Education and is currently a public housing manager. Her work has been published in several local outlets including GoLocal, Valley Breeze, The Rhode Island Catholic, and Currents Magazine.


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