PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is traveling to Rhode Island this weekend to appear at a get-out-the-vote rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Helena Foulkes, whose campaign is trying to capitalize on late momentum following her debate performance Tuesday night.
Pelosi, a longtime family friend who was close to Foulkes’ late mother, will join the candidate as well as Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza for an event Sunday at 2 p.m. at the new headquarters of the nonprofit group Farm Fresh Rhode Island. 12 News first reported Pelosi’s expected visit on Wednesday.
Foulkes is seeking to wrest the Democratic nomination from incumbent Gov. Dan McKee, who inherited the office from Gina Raimondo last year when she left to join President Biden’s cabinet. No new polls have been released in the last month, but Foulkes had trailed both McKee and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea earlier in the summer.
Since then, Gorbea has had a series of public stumbles involving both her campaign and her office, while Foulkes has appeared to be making gains after appearing in the two televised debates and pouring massive amounts of money into the race. The Boston Globe endorsed Foulkes on Thursday, as well.
Foulkes’ mother, Martha Dodd Buonanno, was Pelosi’s college roommate and close friend, and the California Democrat has made no secret of her desire to see Foulkes win the gubernatorial nomination.
“Martha and I became friends more than 50 years ago at Trinity College in Washington,” Pelosi said in a speech on the House floor after Martha Buonanno’s death in 2009, adding that “when we first met, both of our fathers were running for Senate.”
Pelosi has donated $2,000 to Foulkes’ campaign — the maximum allowed under Rhode Island law — as well as $20,000 to an outside group supporting her. She also headlined a fundraiser for Foulkes earlier this summer.
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.
McKee’s team has continued to express confidence about his position. He is banking in part on the power of incumbency, as well as his strong support from organized labor, which threw a well-attended get-out-the-vote rally Thursday night.
McKee has also continues to have a heavy presence on the airwaves, including repeat showings of a well-received ad featuring his elderly mother, as well as a new ad launched Friday that attacks both Foulkes and Gorbea.
A fourth Democratic candidate, progressive hopeful Matt Brown, is planning a canvassing launch in Warwick on Saturday morning, his campaign said. Additional events may be announced. A fifth Democrat, Luis Daniel Muñoz, is also on the ballot.
The primary is Tuesday. The Republican gubernatorial primary pits Ashley Kalus against Jonathan Riccitelli.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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