PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Democrat Gina Raimondo led her party to a sweep of statewide offices, becoming the first woman elected governor in Rhode Island after the priciest campaign in state history.
Raimondo's victory over Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and the Moderate Party's Robert Healey — who had a surprisingly strong showing — also made her the first Democrat elected governor since 1992.
She topped a ticket that saw party victories for lieutenant governor, treasurer, secretary of state and attorney general — the first time that has happened in decades, according to Democratic officials. The party also won the Providence mayoral race, where former Housing Court Judge Jorge Elorza beat back a challenge from ex-Mayor and two-time felon Buddy Cianci.
"I am going to be the governor who leads the comeback of this great state," Raimondo told supporters in her victory speech in downtown Providence. "Tonight, Rhode Island said more of the same is not good enough. ... Rhode Island said we need to move forward."
The 43-year-old treasurer was favored going into the general election but struggled to consolidate support from public-sector unions because of the 2011 pension system overhaul she spearheaded. The AFL-CIO and National Education Association Rhode Island did not endorse her because of lingering anger. The changes are being challenged in court.
She also found herself significantly trailing Fung on the money front after he got more than $1.1 million in public matching funds. She did not seek public financing, which allowed her to spend more than $5 million to win a heated three-way primary but left her broke in September.
Overall, candidates spent more than $15.7 million on the race, including in the primaries, and the campaign was flooded with additional independent expenditures on both sides.
Raimondo focused her campaign on plans to improve the state's chronically struggling economy, saying she would become the "jobs governor." She said she would position Rhode Island to be a center of advanced manufacturing and proposed investments in infrastructure, tourism and workforce development.
She frequently said on the campaign trail that Rhode Island could not cut, or tax, its way out of the economic mess but rather would have to grow its way to better times.
"It's going to be hard," she said. "That's why I ran. I ran to lead the comeback. There will be very many difficult decisions."
The treasurer brought in first lady Michelle Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during the home stretch. President Barack Obama stumped with Raimondo at a Providence restaurant after an official visit to Rhode Island last week.
In his concession speech in Warwick, an emotional Fung said he had called Raimondo and pledged his support to her.
"The next governor has her work cut out for her starting on Day One," he told the crowd. "It was a good race. We've got to be proud of ourselves. We've got nothing to be ashamed of."
He added: "Don't worry — I'll be back."
Raimondo's victory ends Democrats' dry streak: Despite the party's voter registration edge and its lock on the General Assembly, the state hadn't elected a Democratic governor in more than 20 years. Gov. Lincoln Chafee became one last year but ran as an independent in 2010. He did not seek re-election.
In other statewide races, Cumberland Mayor Dan McKee was elected lieutenant governor over Republican Catherine Taylor; Seth Magaziner was elected treasurer over independent Ernie Almonte; Nellie Gorbea defeated Republican John Carlevale for secretary of state; and incumbent Attorney General Peter Kilmartin fended off a challenge from GOP state Sen. Dawson Hodgson.
Healey, a late entrant into the governor's race, had criticized both candidates and his presence was something of a wild card despite the fact he didn't raise any money or run any ads.
Associated Press writer Michelle R. Smith contributed to this report.