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Security separates Providence mayor, Rhode Island governor during a tense confrontation

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee (R) was confronted Wednesday evening by the mayor of Providence Jorge Elorza (L), prompting security to separate the two politicians. (Provided Photo/AP via CNN)

(CNN) — Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee was confronted Wednesday evening by the mayor of Providence, prompting security to separate the two politicians.

McKee was preparing to deliver remarks during a news conference when Mayor Jorge Elorza approached him.

“Governor, this is too important for you to play the coward role on this,” Elorza could be heard saying in video footage from CNN affiliate WJAR-TV. “You gotta face the community on this.”

Elorza’s remarks stemmed from ongoing tensions between him and McKee over the Providence Teachers Union contract brokered by the governor’s office, WJAR reports. The union will vote Friday on ratification, the station says, but Elorza wants a delay.

Elorza, a fellow Democrat, is a likely 2022 challenger to McKee, according to local media.

McKee briefly spoke after the news conference when asked for comment about the confrontation, telling WJAR, “I’ll have more to say about that at my Tuesday press conference. Let’s hope that the contract does get ratified on Friday.”

While some details of the contract have been reported by local media, Elorza is calling for community briefings before the deal is ratified. The mayor says that the current contract “protects adults at the expense of children” and shuffles bad teachers from one school to another, CNN affiliate WLNE-TV reported.

“This contract is going to govern our children’s education for the next 50 and 60 years in the City of Providence. … We only get one chance to do this right and this is not a decision that can be made in secret without any engagement in the community,” Elorza told WLNE. “We’re here demanding that the community to have the opportunity to know what’s in the contract and to be able to provide thoughts and input before it becomes official.”

McKee has defended the contract. “The Mayor making an issue out of this, it could be really disruptive and so I think it’s important to take the high road on this one and I’ll be as polite as I can be,” McKee was quoted by WLNE as saying. “In the end, the goal is to help the students of Providence and the state is in control of those schools.”

The contract includes pay raises and a one-time $3,000 payment, according to WJAR. It also gives principals more power when hiring teachers and provides more authority on possible sick leave abuses. Those suspected of abusing the sick leave policy may need to provide a “medical certificate,” WJAR reported.

CNN is reaching out to the mayor’s office and governor’s office for further comment.