The figure-skating champ's husband, Clay Pell, enters an already contentious race

By Associated Press
January 29, 2014 11:15 AM
Credit: Stephan Savoia/AP

Michelle Kwan is a decorated Olympic medalist, world champion and U.S. champion. But could she be adding one more title to the list – Rhode Island’s first lady?

The legendary figure skater’s husband, Clay Pell, has entered Rhode Island’s already contentious race for governor. Pell, 32, announced his bid with a video released Monday, ahead of a campaign rally Tuesday at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

Pell, a Democrat and the grandson of the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell, may be a political newcomer, but he can count on his family’s legacy, his wife’s star wattage and what appears to growing support from some party insiders.

Pell served in the U.S. Coast Guard and worked on both the White House national security staff and at the U.S. Department of Education.

“The problems we face are urgent and they need urgent action,” Pell told the Associated Press during a recent interview at his home on Providence’s East Side. “They need a fresh approach, and I believe I bring a distinct set of experience, values and skills to move this state forward.”

The gubernatorial primary is in September, ahead of the November general election, with two other Democrats in the race: Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo. (Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and businessman Ken Block are running as Republicans.)

But the Pell name still resonates with those who remember his grandfather and his greatest legacy from six terms as a Democrat in the U.S. Senate: the scholarship program now known as Pell Grants.

Kwan’s celebrity isn’t likely to hurt either.

Pell and Kwan were married at a Providence church in 2013, and he has voted in Rhode Island for the past decade.