Clay Pell Carries on Family’s Political Dynasty
Clay Pell is one of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Governor of Rhode Island. At 32 years-old, he is a member of a distinguished political family - his grandfather, Claiborne Pell (D), represented the state in the U.S. Senate for 36 years before passing away in 2007.
The Pell’s political legacy runs deeper, however, and has roots to the LGBT community, as Clay Pell’s late aunt, Julie Pell, was a veteran LGBT rights activist and a past president of the state’s Alliance for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights.
Clay Pell, who is married to Olympic figure skating medalist, Michelle Kwan and resides in Providence, is a lieutenant and judge advocate in the United States Coast Guard, and served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Foreign Language Education in the United States Department of Education. He also served as director for strategic planning on President Barack Obama’s National Security staff.
Pell’s political rivals include State Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, as well as Todd Giroux, a gay building contractor from Bristol. Governor Lincoln Chafee (D) is not running for a second term and businessman Ken Block and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung are vying for the Republican nomination.
Pell sat down with EDGE to discuss his family’s influence on his career, his views on LGBT equality and what he can bring to improve Rhode Island.
He first talks about his grandfather and how he learned a lot about government from him, saying that he taught him that "you can do things for the right reasons, in the right way and help people."
The politician has a lasting respect for the work his aunt Julie Pell did in furthering the cause of LGBT rights in the state.
"She spoke truth to power," Pell told EDGE. "She was a wonderful aunt and I think about her every day. I know how happy and proud she would be to know that marriage equality finally passed. She was a voice for people who didn’t have a voice."
Pell wants his campaign to be an inclusive one, and is reaching out not only to the LGBT community, but also to all minority communities in the state.