PROVIDENCE — Former CVS Health executive Helena Foulkes has joined a crowded Democratic primary for Rhode Island governor next year.
“The pandemic and years of Trumpian divisiveness forced us all to reflect upon our common humanity, even as our differences, real and perceived, worked to pull us apart,” she wrote. “This is a time of both great crisis and opportunity in the Ocean State, and I am eager to spearhead the change that must come.”
In her letter, she said Rhode Island needed to attract more jobs, encourage small companies and large corporations to invest in the community’s potential, lessen regulatory challenges, address climate change, and invest in improving schools across the state.
“Great schools emerge from great communities, requiring investment in both traditional and human infrastructure, from buildings to health care,” she wrote. “We need leadership to unlock the best future possible for all of our children and determine the best way forward. I can lead that change.”
Most of the gubernatorial candidates in the Democratic primary come with a plenty of political experience. But Foulkes, 57, is a deep-pocketed business leader who was ranked No. 14 on Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women list in 2017. She was part of Governor Lincoln Chafee’s transition team transition team in 2010.
Foulkes graduated from the Lincoln School, a college preparatory school in Providence, in 1982, and from Harvard University with an economics degree in 1986. She earned her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1992 and is the current president of Harvard’s Board of Overseers, on which she has served since 2016.
She has also served on boards for The Home Depot, Harry’s Inc, mPharma, Skillsoft, The Wallace Foundation, Salesforce, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the University of Connecticut’s Dodd Human Rights Impact research center.
She briefly held positions at Goldman Sachs and Tiffany & Co.
Foulkes joined CVS in 1992, rising to become the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. She also helped guide the company to stop selling tobacco products, like cigarettes, in 2011.
After leaving CVS, she was named Hudson’s Bay Company’s chief executive officer in February 2018. Hudson’s Bay is the parent company of Saks Fifth Avenue. She left in March 2020 when the company went private.
She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard V. Buonanno of Providence and is the granddaughter of the late Senator Thomas J. Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut, and niece of former Senator Christopher J. Dodd, also a Connecticut Democrat. President Joe Biden attended Foulkes’s mother’s wake in 2009 when he was vice president.
Foulkes joins a crowded race, with incumbent Governor Dan McKee, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz, and former Secretary of State and Rhode Island Political Cooperative candidate Matt Brown having already declared their candidacies.
Meredith A. Curren, vice chairwoman of BankRI, is the treasurer of Helena Foulkes’s campaign for Rhode Island governor. She was an advisor on former governor Gina M. Raimondo’s 2014 transition team.