10 Questions Pell Has to Answer When Running for Gov of RI
Saturday, February 01, 2014
It is official: 32-year-old Clay Pell is in the race for Governor. He has already thrown in $1 million of his own money and now gets ready for an endless number of references to the Pell Grant - you will think he wrote the legislation by the end of this campaign.
Pell faces Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras in the Democratic primary. The young Pell will need to explain to voters why a 32-year-old, regardless of last names and how many zeros that trust fund statement lists, deserves to be seriously considered as a viable candidate for Governor.
Or is it that the last name and the number of zero's are the only reasons why he is a candidate for Governor.
The following are ten questions Clay Pell will need to answer to win the Democratic primary for Governor. When you have never had a private sector job, you just moved into the state, and you claim to be the best candidate to fix the most economically challenged state, then you need to be ready to answer a lot of questions.
Related Slideshow: 10 Questions Pell Has to Answer When Running for Gov of RI
10. Pell's Base?
Where is Pell’s voter base going to come from?
It is difficult to identify Clay Pell’s base beyond a few prep school chums (in California) and the lovely people who live on Bellevue Avenue in Newport.
Every winning candidate needs a core base to leverage to win.
Taveras is counting, in part, on the Hispanic community as his base.
Raimondo is working to solidify two core groups – women and fiscal conservative Democrats.
Pell, who is both wooing and being wooed by progressives and public sector unions (see #6), must grow beyond the group the summers in Newport.
Seriously – Another No Private Sector Experience Governor?
Voters should understand that two sources of revenue have funded Clay Pell’s adult life – the federal government and trust funds. His public service in the Coast Guard is admirable, but Clay Pell has never had to worry about:
Mortgage, rent, car, health insurance, groceries, credit card, electric, oil/gas, telephone, cable, cellphone, college loans, tuition, or even yacht payments.
They were all taken care of before his own birth.
He has to convince voters that he is credible.
8. Decision making
Has he ever had to make an executive decision?
There is no indication that Clay Pell has ever had to make a significant management decision in his life. We all saw how David Cicilline struggled with managing Providence’s budget – Mayor’s offices and Governor’s offices are tough places for on-the-job learning.
Like their decision making or not, both Taveras and Raimondo have had to make executive decisions – Pell is going to need to assure voter he can make management decisions (See tough decisions below).
7. Ordinary RIers
Can Pell connect to Rhode Islanders?
Most of the places Clay Pell spent his formative years, Rhode Islanders have not experienced. The reason why – they are private clubs, top-flight private schools and colleges. The Thacher School to Harvard to Georgetown Law School. Each of these premier schools has an annual tuition of more than $50,000 a year.
While Pell may claim to be committed to “ordinary” people (as he said in a WJAR interview), he needs to demonstrate that he is can understand the plight of unemployed and underemployed Rhode Islanders.
Progressives and Unions are in Love with Pell, is that good for RI?
Two powerful and influential groups in the Democratic primary are progressives and public service unions. With Rhode Island’s unemployment the worst in the United States and the economy, de facto, still in the recession, the next Governor will have many difficult decisions.
The decisions will include difficult budget choices – not likely to be popular with public sector unions and progressives.
As the Wall Street Journal wrote this week, "...makes him attractive to public unions who are likely to spend heavily in the primary. Robert Walsh, the executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, has already welcomed Mr. Pell's entry into the race. "Suddenly, an opportunity appears."
5. Kwan Factor
Is he more than Michelle Kwan’s husband?
Rhode Islanders love a good celebrity and Clay Pell’s wife Michelle Kwan is certainly a celebrity. She won her first ice-skating World Championship in 1996 when she was just 15 years old. And had qualified for the Olympics in 1994 at age 13 only to be bumped by the recovering Nancy Kerrigan.
The two-time Olympian Kwan will wow Rhode Island during the campaign, but will she overshadow her husband?
4. Claiborne Factor
Is he more than Claiborne Pell’s Grandson?
The venerable Claiborne de Borna Pell retired from the United States Senate nearly two decades ago. While older voters may be fond of the deceased Senator’s legacy – many Rhode Islanders were not old enough to vote or did not live in the state when Pell was in office.
While the Pell family name may have some limited impact and young Clay Pell’s campaign will dredge up lots of legacy stories (so many you may think Clay was the author of the legislation creating the Pell grants).
3. GOP Factor
Can Pell beat a Republican?
Pell’s ability to skate between Raimondo and Taveras to win the Democratic primary in a coalition of union and progressive’s support will force him to win from the left.
Coming out of the primary will have defined him to the general election voter as a liberal of the highest degree. Brookings Institute Vice President Darrell West recently told an audience during a speech at the Newport Art Museum that progressives are back in vogue (citing the recent election of ultra progressive Bill deBlasio as Mayor of New York), but with Rhode Island’s economy stuck in a recession, Pell may have a difficult time convincing voters in the General Election that he is viable.
Remember in the past five elections – Rhode Islanders have elected Republicans to the Governor’s office four times (Almond twice, Carcieri twice) and in the last election while a liberal Lincoln Chafee won, more than 60% of the voters cast a ballot for the conservative Frank Caprio (D), GOP candidate John Robitaille or the business leaning Moderate Party candidate Ken Block.
Either GOP candidate will be able to paint Pell as too liberal for the challenges facing Rhode Island’s stagnant economy (9.1% unemployment).
2. Experience, any?
Does Pell have any experience?
Pell graduated from law school in 2008. That is right; Clay Pell has only been out of school for 5 plus years.
It is hard to believe that his experience in Coast Guard as a junior officer and his White House Fellowship qualifies him to be the chief executive of a state – he has never managed senior staff (he has never been senior staff), never managed employees of any significant scale, he has never managed a major budget, and he has zero economic development experience – a trait that some voters might look for after Chafee’s term.
1. Tough Enough?
Is Pell tough enough?
Both Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras demonstrated in the past three plus years in office the ability to make “tough” decisions.
Taveras had to clean up the Cicilline budget mess that had nearly bankrupted the City of Providence and Taveras even fired all the teachers in the Capital City. Of course, he walked that dog backwards during the following months ensuring a lack of trust with both teachers and fiscal conservatives.
Raimondo’s pension reform effort has drawn passionate support and venomous scorn. Regardless, it has demonstrated Raimondo is battle tested.
Pell’s professional career is not only short (5 plus years), but also been advisory – the buck has never stopped at Clay Pell’s cubicle.
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.