In a definitive sign that he's jumping into the race for governor, Clay Pell has filed a notice of organization with the state Board of Elections that he's moving ahead with a campaign.
In a statement, Pell says, “Earlier today, I filed a Notice of Organization for an Exploratory Committee with the Board of Elections. The filing is a practical step in my process to decide whether I will seek the Democratic nomination for governor."
Pell continues: "We face enormous challenges. Too many Rhode Islanders have been left out and left behind. I believe our state is at a crossroads, and that the next governor must set a new course that will give the people of Rhode Island a fair chance for a brighter, bolder future. In the weeks ahead, I will continue this process by meeting with people across Rhode Island to listen to their concerns.”
Pell, 32, enters the Democratic primary with a few key assets: strong name recognition; the ability to contribute significantly to his own fundraising; and the star power that comes with being married to former Olympic skater Michelle Kwan.
The entry of Pell into the primary turns what was expected to be a two-way race between Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and state Treasurer Gina Raimondo into a likely three-way contest. Taveras announced his run for governor last month, and Raimondo is expected to unveil her campaign before the end of the year.
Pell is the grandson of the late former US Senator Claiborne Pell, who first won election in 1960 and served until deciding not to seek re-election in 1996. Claiborne Pell helped create Pell grants as well as the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Pell graduated from Harvard, Georgetown Law and has been active with the Coast Guard. Amid word last month that he was considering a run for governor, Pell left a post as deputy assistant secretary for the US International and Foreign Language Service.
The latest change in the race comes as Taveras' campaign lost its finance director, Peter Baptista, last Friday, and the departure of two top aides has raised eyebrows in insider Democratic circles. Raimondo has continued stockpiling staffers and campaign money.
Pell has spent recent weeks making the rounds of meeting with officials including Governor Lincoln Chafee and House Speaker Gordon Fox, and attending Democratic functions.