PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Former CVS executive Helena Foulkes is getting some big-name help in her bid for Rhode Island’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi headlined a fundraiser for Foulkes on Tuesday night at Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro’s home in Washington, according to an invitation obtained by 12 News. It’s the latest sign of support for Foulkes’ candidacy from Pelosi, who has also donated $2,000 to her campaign.

The pair have a personal connection: Foulkes’ late mother, Martha Dodd Buonanno, was Pelosi’s college roommate and close lifelong friend. In a speech on the House floor after Martha Buonanno’s death in 2009, Pelosi recalled, “Martha and I became friends more than 50 years ago at Trinity College in Washington,” adding that “when we first met, both of our fathers were running for Senate.”

In a statement, Foulkes said, “I’m incredibly honored to have the support of Speaker Pelosi, a trailblazing champion for women and democracy who is one of my personal role models. I can’t thank her enough for supporting my campaign.”

This isn’t the first time in recent years that Pelosi has intervened in a heated local Democratic primary. Two years ago, she made a late-stage endorsement of then-Congressman Joe Kennedy III in his unsuccessful Democratic primary challenge against U.S. Sen. Ed Markey.

The host committee for Foulkes’ fundraiser Tuesday also included former Connecticut U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, who is her uncle; former Alaska U.S. Sen. Mark Begich; Don Sweitzer, a longtime Democratic Party powerbroker in Rhode Island and nationally; and Stephen Neuman, a lobbyist who was chief of staff to Gov. Gina Raimondo.

Audrey Lucas, a spokesperson for Foulkes, declined to say how much money was raised at the event. Suggested contributions were $1,000 per person, the maximum allowed under Rhode Island law.

A 12 News/Roger Williams University poll in early May showed Foulkes trailing well behind the two leading Democratic candidates for governor, incumbent Gov. Dan McKee and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea. The survey was conducted just before Foulkes began running a blitz of TV ads introducing herself to voters. (Gorbea began running her own ads this week.)

Money continues to be a major advantage for Foulkes. She had $1.5 million on hand as of March 31, more than any other Democrat, according to her most recent R.I. Board of Elections filing. The next glimpse of the campaigns’ relative financial strength will come after the current quarter ends June 30.

Former Secretary of State Matt Brown and community activist Luis Daniel Muñoz are also seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. The primary is Sept. 13.

Ted Nesi ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook