Businessman and former state senator Giovanni Feroce said he feels compelled to join a crowded Republican field for governor, mostly because the other candidates are not discussing how Rhode Island will be changed over the next quarter-century by the sweeping effects of technology.
"I need to be there," Feroce said Wednesday in an interview with Rhode Island Public Radio. "I need to be part of the conversation."
Feroce, 49, the former CEO of Alex + Ani, has been the subject of a series of stories in The Providence Journal about his finances and more recently, the auction of his Newport mansion. He maintains that those news reports could work to his advantage, and said he would fill a void in the 2018 race for governor by discussing what Rhode Island should look like in 25 years.
"I am definitely leaning toward running for governor," he said, "and frankly, the main reason is I believe I contribute a conversation that's just not being had at the moment -- no one's talking about the vision of Rhode Island. No one talks about drones and electric cars and robotics, and which industries are going to be coming to the state to then have the subset to employ mass amount of people? What do housing units look like in the future? What does transportation look like?"
If Feroce enters the GOP primary field -- as he said he expects to, in early 2018 -- he would likely be one of four Republicans fighting for the chance to take on incumbent Democrat Gina Raimondo. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan announced campaigns this week, and former state Rep. Joe Trillo has said he's 99 percent committed to making a run. The primary election will be held in September 2018.
Feroce's LinkedIn profile describes him as the chairman and CEO of BENRUS and said his credentials include an advanced management program at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. He ran for lieutenant governor at age 24 in 1994.
Asked about how a campaign would be affected by news reports about his finances, Feroce said, "Any type of adversity, I think, resonates with people. Most people have adversity in their life, and so I think they want an individual who knows how to navigate that, how to come through it, how to fight day by day, survive another day and move on."
"And so I don't necessarily agree with any of the assessment of what The Providence Journal has put together as far as describing who I am," Feroce continued. "But regardless, the old adage is, just make sure you spell my name right, because at this point, they've really have just put me in a position where I am fearless, right? I can actually talk about what I want to do. Other people, other candidates, nobody has got hit in the stomach yet."