Rhode Island Republicans believe they have found a credible candidate for governor, and we’re going to learn more about her today.
Ashley Kalus, who bought a home with her husband and three children in Newport last year, is set to formally launch her campaign to lead the state later this morning.
Look out for my colleague Ed Fitzpatrick’s full story on Kalus’ campaign today.
Kalus, 39, opened a campaign account to begin raising money for the race on Feb. 7, three weeks after she registered to vote in Newport. She and her husband, Dr. Jeffrey Weinzweig, bought a home there last year.
The couple has run a COVID-19 testing and vaccination business called Doctors Test Centers during the pandemic, securing millions of dollars in contracts in Rhode Island, Illinois, and Florida over the past two years.
While she’ll have to overcome having little history in Rhode Island – watch out for those questions about the locations of our many villages – Republicans believe Kalus can emerge as a strong alternative to whomever emerges from a crowded Democratic primary field that includes incumbent Governor Dan McKee, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, former secretary of state Matt Brown, and health advocate Luis Daniel Muñoz.
Kalus, who holds degrees from the London School of Economics and Columbia University, is expected to both raise money and contribute a significant amount of personal funds to her campaign to begin running a general election strategy right away. She isn’t expected to face significant opposition in a primary.
Politics is a copycat sport, so you can expect Kalus to attempt to recreate Glenn Youngkin’s victory over Terry McAuliffe in Virginia last year. That will mean appealing to suburban voters on issues like education and taxes while attempting to capitalize on the Democratic candidates’ desire to be all things to all people.
The Republicans who have met Kalus believe she has the ability to unite a fractured party that has, in recent years, been divided into pro-Allan Fung and anti-Fung camps, depending on whether they supported the former Cranston mayor for governor in 2014 and 2018.
Fung is now running for Congress to succeed retiring Democratic US Representative James Langevin, and will face state Senator Jessica de la Cruz and former state representative Robert Lancia in a primary.
Kalus isn’t expected to endorse any candidate in that primary.
This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.