Clay Pell kicked off his campaign for Rhode Island governor Tuesday with an introduction from his wife, Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, and a pledge to rebuild Rhode Island's economy and restore faith in government.
Pell, the grandson of the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell, said he's running to take on "insider politics and cronyism" at the State House and said he'd support investments in education, workforce development and such infrastructure as ports, roads and bridges to reduce the state's 9.1 percent unemployment rate.
"Rhode Islanders feel that government is no longer investing in them," he told an audience of more than 100 gathered at the Rhode Island Convention Center for his first campaign rally. "It's time to invest in our people and in Rhode Island's future again."
The political newcomer faces Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo in September's Democratic primary. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and businessman Ken Block are running as Republicans. Democratic Gov. Lincoln Chafee is not seeking another term.
Pell is a former White House national security staffer and U.S. Coast Guard officer. The 32-year-old, who has never held elected office, joked about his wife's celebrity when he took the podium and said "Hello, everybody. I am Michelle Kwan's husband."
Kwan, who said she is "proud to call herself a Rhode Islander," introduced her husband as someone who "is not a loud attention-seeker, but he has the quiet courage that leaders need."
In comments to reporters after the rally, Pell criticized the state's failed investment in 38 Studios, saying the loan guarantee to former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's now-bankrupt video game company was the kind of "one-off" decision that is obstructing the state's economic recovery. But he stopped short of saying the state should default on the debt it owes for the deal, saying he'd like to see more analysis of Rhode Island's options.