EAST PROVIDENCE – Governor Helena Buonanno Fawkes has been here before.
I did not participate in the election campaign. She has never run for public office at this or any level of government. It’s the bowling alley off her Newport Avenue that she visited during her teenage years living on her east side of Providence.
On weekday nights this summer, Foulkes will track down members of the campaign staff and Journal reporters after a few frames of non-league 10-pins. She took a short, slow approach, deliberately rolling the ball into the center of the hardwood with a minimal backswing into the triangle of the waiting pin, sparking a comeback against a decidedly lackluster competition. increase.
And that, combined with the financial power expected of a former corporate CEO, is how Foulkes hopes to become governor. The person who left the pack.
If that doesn’t happen, and Mr. Foulkes’ outlook is mixed at best, Mr. Foulkes risks doing one or the other. , Rhode Island lost the most expensive Democratic primary in its history.
She had another $182,000 in the bank for her final weeks, including $100,000 donated to 4RI PAC, a federal super PAC set up to support her. Is not.
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Despite being bombarded with TV ads for much of the summer, Foulkes remained in third place with 14% of the vote. This political newcomer.
The bowling alley allows Fawkes, 58, to reach voters separate from Democrats on Blackstone Boulevard and Ocean Road. And she can show them that even a former CEO who grew up around the US Senate can be down-to-earth.
It might be worth it, as her opponents portray her as a candidate for big companies and attack political contributions made while sitting on the boards of companies like Home Depot. .
why do you want to be governor?
Rumors of Foulkes running for governor began shortly after Gina Raimondo stepped down to become U.S. Secretary of Commerce and was succeeded by Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee in March 2021.
She said she was inspired to run to help those suffering from the COVID pandemic, but in general terms about who or what specifically caused her decision to jump into the statewide campaign in the first place. I will speak at
“It was the beginning of COVID and I was looking around at everything that was going on. Governor Raimondo was going to DC. “I never thought about it.”
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Specifically, who encouraged her to run?
“People,” she said with a laugh, as bowling pins crumbled into the background.
Foulkes has a good relationship with Raimondo. Her campaign includes several former Raimondo employees on her team, and she has not publicly criticized her Raimondo policies. Some have suggested that Fawkes is running as Gina 2.0, as both women entered politics from business and Harvard.
“I don’t know,” she said at the bowling alley when asked if Raimond had done anything different in the office. I’m telling people I look forward to the day I do.”
Rhode Island family
When U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed the Commencement at Brown University this spring, she shouted out Martha Dodd Buonanno, Pelosi’s friend and Volks’ late mother. There was little chance of it being neglected.
Politics was never far away in the Dodd Buonanno family. Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut was Fawkes’ grandfather, and his son, Senator Christopher Dodd, was her aunt.
But despite his close proximity to politicians, Foulkes said he didn’t have much first-hand experience until he grew up in the meat and potatoes of campaigns and retail campaigns.
Instead, the aspect of family she covered most enthusiastically was business.
Foulkes’ grandfather, Bernard V. Buonanno Sr., graduated from Brown University and taught at Classic High School before working with his brother Joseph’s Atlantic Chemical Co. to build steel drums for oil and chemical companies.
Foulkes’ father, Bernard Buonanno Jr., also went to Brown and then went into business, but also earned a degree from Georgetown Law. Steel Instead of his drums, he ran the Old Fox Fertilizer Co. in East his Providence. This led him to briefly compete with lawn management giant Scott Fertilizer in the 1980s.
But he’s better known in the banking world, where he became chairman of the Old Stone Bank, and in the sports world, he’s been an active supporter of his local team, and a director of the Providence Civic Center Authority and the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority. I have served as chairman.
Beginning in the late 1960s, Bernard Buonanno, Jr. worked on the Pier Village Complex by Gilbane Building Company in the controversial Narragansett Pier urban redevelopment. He played squash with Brown’s classmate and future Gilbane CEO Paul Shockett.
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Politically, Fawkes’ father worked on John Chafee’s Senate campaign, chaired Senator Claiborne Pell’s 1990 re-election campaign for finance, and hosted a fundraiser for Donald Carcieri.
Fawkes’ family moved from East Greenwich to the East Side when she was in third grade, where she attended the Henry Barnard School and then the Lincoln School.
Fawkes’ sister was friends with Matt Brown, Moses Brown and the current Democratic Party’s main rival, because Rhode Island politics rarely sees much segregation. (“He was always trying to do something,” Bernard Buonanno Jr. told the Journal in 2002 when Brown ran for Secretary of State. “You knew he was running for office. rice field.”)
From Harvard to Hudson Bay
After high school, he attended Harvard for Fawkes, then worked for two years at investment bank Goldman Sachs and two years at luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co. before earning an MBA from Harvard Business School.
She loved retail and wanted to be near Boston, where her husband worked, so in 1992 she first worked for CVS, the company she is still most closely associated with.
At CVS, Foulkes climbed the corporate ladder to become president of the company’s pharmacy business, and fully tapped into the political momentum he had served as governor at the time in January 2011. Lincoln Chafee took office, and he appointed her chief deputy to the state’s Board of Economic Development Corporations.
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Her decision to end cigarette sales in CVS stores is featured in the current campaign, while the retail chain’s role in the opioid epidemic is featured in attacks from rivals.
Prior to her arrival, it wasn’t an easy time to join the EDC board responsible for managing the ill-fated 38 studio deal approved under then-Governor Carcieri.
By the spring of 2012, 38 Studios had collapsed, and so had Foulkes’ relationship with Chafee, with Foulkes accusing him of wanting to put more tax money into the doomed video game startup. He denies Chaffee’s claim that he wanted to rescue a certain Kurt Schilling, but doesn’t say what actually happened.
EDC board member Karl Wadensten, who was the only 38 Studios “no” voter, said he remembered Foulkes struggling to cope in the final days of the debacle.
“Foulkes are very supportive and face challenges head-on,” he said. “She definitely values simplicity, finding solutions that make things less complicated than they really are.”
Foulkes left CVS in 2018 to become CEO of Hudson’s Bay Company. The Hudson’s Bay Company is a holding company with roots in his 17th-century colonial fur-trading empire, which owns Saks Fifth Avenue and other retail outlets.
It was not an easy time to run a retail business.
In Canada, where Hudson Bay is a part of the nation’s history and culture, Mr. Forkes’ favorable salary package raised eyebrows and drew opposition from some shareholders.
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During her tenure at the company, there were significant streamlining, cost cutting and downsizing, including job cuts and the closure of the Lord & Taylor department store.
“The history of the company is that it was put together by real estate investors and kept adding different businesses. When I joined, it was burning $1 billion every year,” she said of Hudson Bay.
During her two years there, she said she invested in new IT systems and data tools while spinning off the business so that others could run it better.
“It wasn’t about cutting costs. It was really about investing in core tools that enabled the business to be a great retailer,” says Foulkes.
She left when investors offered to take the company private for a price shareholders couldn’t refuse.
Fawkes moved to Narragansett in 2020 and is a member of the Dunes Club and Point Judith Country Club.
What platform is Helena Foulkes on?
Forkes’ biggest pitch to Rhode Island voters is that if elected, she could turn around some of the state’s struggling public schools. I have been promised not to run for office for an annual term.
Specifically, she said she would not seek re-election if her RICAS test scores, released in the fall of 2025, were not better than her pre-pandemic scores in 2019 (i.e., math proficiency was 30%, English capacity is 39%).
To boost her score, she suggests spending $1 billion on items such as after-school programs, mental health, universal preschool, primary education assistants, and tutoring.
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Foulkes is proposing to pay for this school’s expenses with federal COVID relief dollars, funds proposed in the original Build Back Better package that didn’t go through, and state borrowings.
Asked how she would pay for it now that those federal dollars have been spoken or not coming, Foulkes said she would have to “step back and work with Congress.”
She denied supporting raising state income tax rates to boost income for high-income earners, and criticized Nelly Golbert for supporting raising corporate tax rates.
Like incumbent Governor Dan McKee, Volks opposes a new charter school cap or moratorium that the General Assembly has been considering for years.
Another big policy area for Foulkes is health care.
She wants to eliminate the out-of-pocket costs of treating other chronic diseases, starting with diabetes and asthma, and eventually HIV.
She conceptually advocates moving the country to a single-payer healthcare system.
“I think our healthcare system is broken,” she said. “We pay more per capita than any other country in the country, and the system is expensive, confusing and complicated.”
Like other Democratic candidates, she borrows money to invest in maritime businesses in the “blue economy,” promising to make housing more affordable.
Specifically, Foulkes said he likes the legalization of attached apartments in California as a way to quickly increase the supply of new housing.
On Twitter: @PatrickAnderso_