PROVIDENCE — So have you ever been to Benny’s?
Republican gubernatorial candidate Ashley Kalus, a healthcare executive and newcomer to Rhode Island, answered that question and others on the Rhode Island Report podcast.
Kalus – who entered the governor’s race in March and announced last week that she will put $500,000 of her own money into her campaign – argued she would do a better job than Democratic Governor Daniel J. McKee.
“We need an outsider,” she said. “We need to change directions.”
Why would Rhode Island need an outsider? “I think for too long, insiders have been running the government,” Kalus said, “and it hasn’t served the people.”
When asked which Rhode Island Republican she admires most (past or present), Kalus hesitated before saying, “I would say perhaps Governor Chafee.”
Well, which Governor Chafee? Without using the names of either John H. Chafee (governor 1963-69) or his son Lincoln D. Chafee (governor 2011-2015), she said, “I tend to like the first. Sequels are not my thing.”
Kalus, who has never run for public office before, said she’s running for governor because “it is a great position for my skill set. I’ve been an executive. I’ve led organizations, and I understand what the job is. I’ve also worked in a governor’s office.”
Kalus is an executive at Doctors Test Centers, which has state contracts to provide COVID-19 testing and vaccine services, and she was director of public engagement for former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican.
Kalus and her husband, Dr. Jeffrey Weinzweig, bought a house in Newport last year for $770,000. Weinzweig, a plastic surgeon, trained at Brown University and started a practice working at Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital. The couple left Rhode Island because “we had $250,000 in student loans and we couldn’t afford to be here,” she explained. “Now we’re back. I’ve always wanted to come back, and I love Rhode Island.”
Kalus said a proposal to raise Rhode Island’s top marginal income tax rate from 5.99 to 8.99 percent on income of more than $475,000 could hurt the state’s competitiveness. “We would have the highest marginal tax rate east of the Mississippi,” she said.
Actually, New York has a top income tax rate of 10.9 percent and New Jersey has a top rate of 10.75 percent, according to the Tax Foundation. Kalus noted that New York’s 10.9 percent rate applies to income of $25 million or more, and New Jersey’s 10.75 percent rate applies to income of $1 million or more.
In addition to discussing the legitimacy of the 2020 election and the investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, Kalus recounted how she learned to box at a gym in Quincy, Mass., when she was 18 and won the New England Golden Gloves championship in Lowell, Mass. The Globe ran a story in 2001 that quoted Kalus about a fight between the daughters of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, and included a photo of Kalus throwing a punch.
At age 39, she said she still trains but does not spar.
“I would love to, but my husband is not so excited about that, and I could get hurt,” Kalus said. “There’s nothing like boxing in the world to me. I love the sport. Had there been more opportunity for me as a woman boxer, I think I would have had a different trajectory. But when I started boxing, there weren’t women to fight, and the opportunity was limited as a female athlete.”
Hear more by downloading the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.