In Backing Taveras, Patrick Kennedy Takes Aim At Pell's Experience

Aug 12, 2014

Former congressman Patrick Kennedy stumped with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Angel Taveras at an elderly high-rise in East Providence Tuesday morning. The event took place with exactly four weeks until Rhode Island’s September 9th primary election, and Kennedy used the occasion to argue that rival Democrat Clay Pell is too inexperienced to be governor.

Kennedy stumping for Taveras at a senior center in East Providence.
Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

Kennedy told a group of seniors he’s supporting Taveras because of his experience and leadership ability. Kennedy applauded Taveras for bringing Providence back from the brink of bankruptcy. The former congressman also points to how Taveras made a success of himself after growing up poor.

“If we need a model in Rhode Island of what it is that it’s going to take for success, all we need to do is to look at the personal story of Angel Taveras,” said Kennedy. “He’s not someone who has ever had anything handed to him.”

In a shot at rival Pell, Kennedy says he had already served as a state rep and congressman by the time he was 32, Pell's age in his current run for governor.

As part of a 17-minute stem winder at Rumford Towers, Kennedy recalled how when he first ran for state rep as a Providence College student in 1988, he agreed with those backing the call for new blood and a fresh face, although, "Of course, I was 21 years old."

"You know I was 27 when you elected me to Congress," in 1994, Kennedy continued. "I had already served six years in the state legislature, four years in the United States Congress, and as a 32-year-old who had already had over eight years of experience as an elected official, I did not think so much of myself that I thought I could be governor of this great state. Now I pushed the bounds by asking you to elect me as your congressman. But I didn't take for granted that you just supported me because of my last name. I knew I had to show something.

"That's why I ran for the state legislature in Rhode Island. That's why I worked to pass the voter registration at state agencies, the seven-day waiting period for the purchase of firearms, and other important legislation. I became chairman of the House Rules Committee in the state legislature -- all significant achievements of my own before I ever went to all you and said, vote for me. Because I had already shown you that I was willing to work hard and that I was willing to pay my dues and work in the vineyards as an elected official before I asked for the awesome responsibility of being elected as your member of Congress."

Taveras' campaign last week started airing an ad questioning Pell's experience. Pell responded by criticizing Taveras' campaign tactics.

In response to Kennedy's comments, Pell's campaign director Devin Driscoll offered this statement: "Our grassroots campaign is gaining momentum for one reason: Clay's the candidate talking about issues. He has a real plan, filled with new ideas, and a fresh perspective for tackling our state's long-standing challenges. That's going to remain our focus for the final four weeks of this campaign."

Pell, the grandson of the late US Senator Claiborne Pell, is a first-time candidate. His resume includes service as a Coast Guard officer and a federal education official.

Kennedy's criticism of Pell came less than 24 hours after he headlined a fundraiser for 31-year-old Democratic treasurer candidate Seth Magaziner, who is running in a primary against former treasurer Frank Caprio.

Kennedy is in Rhode Island for a few days stumping for a handful of Democratic candidates before heading home to New Jersey.

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