PROVIDENCE — A Republican who bought a house in Newport last year and registered to vote in Rhode Island last month opened a campaign account to run for governor this week.
Ashley Kalus, 39, who filed paperwork with the state Board of Elections under her married name, Ashley Weinzweig, is an executive at Doctors Test Centers, which has state contracts to provide COVID-19 testing and vaccine services. She worked as CEO of Adhereon, a Chicago-based maker of medical devices, from November 2016 to December 2021, according to her LinkedIn profile.
From January 2015 to November 2016, Kalus worked as director of public engagement for former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican, and she was coalitions coordinator for Citizens for Rauner Inc. from 2014 to 2015.
Kalus, who has not returned calls from the Globe, filed paperwork for the governor’s race as the Rhode Island Republican Party is searching for a candidate to counter a large field of Democrats.
Sue Cienki, chair of the Rhode Island Republican Party, on Tuesday said Kalus had told her “she is still in an exploratory stage of running for governor.”
But, Cienki said, “She certainly fits the model of the type of candidate we are looking for – a young CEO-type who can help turn the state around.”
She said Kalus is now “crisscrossing the state, talking to voters about their concerns.” She said Kalus cares about issues such as education, the environment, affordable health care, and making Rhode Island competitive with its neighboring states. She said she expects Kalus to announce whether or not she is running soon.
If she does run, Kalus will undoubtedly face questions about seeking the state’s top elected office when she is so new to Rhode Island. But Cienki said, “I don’t look at it as an extreme disadvantage because she is from the area.”
She said Kalus grew up in Massachusetts and graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Kalus went on to attend the London School of Economics and Political Science and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, according to her LinkedIn profile.
She is married to Dr. Jeffrey Weinzweig, founder and director of JW Plastic Surgery and owner of Doctors Test Centers. He completed his general surgery residency at the University of Chicago and his plastic surgery residency at Brown University.
The couple bought a house on Narragansett Avenue in Newport for $770,000 in May 2021. And she registered to vote in Rhode Island as a Republican on Jan. 18 of this year, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Doctors Test Centers has signed two contracts with the state Department of Health, records show.
One contract, worth $7.9 million, was for “COVID-19 specimen collection and courier services” between July 2021 through Jan. 31, 2022. A second contract, worth $3.48 million, is for “COVID vaccination services for large scale vaccination sites” between April 2021 and March 31, 2022. Kalus signed the contracts, identifying herself as the company’s chief operating officer.
Meanwhile, David A. Darlington, a North Kingstown Republican who was chairman of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, had said in October that he plans to run for governor, and Cranston Mayor Kenneth J. Hopkins issued a statement in January saying he was exploring a run. But neither one had filed paperwork to run for governor as of Tuesday.
The Republican nominee will face the winner of a Democratic primary that is expected to include Governor Daniel J. McKee, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, former secretary of state Matt Brown, and Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz.
Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.