Helena Buonanno Foulkes for Governor of Rhode Island
What the state needs in its next governor, then, is a leader with the talent and vision to finish what Raimondo started.
Helena Buonanno Foulkes is that someone. The former CVS leader has strong management skills and a demonstrated ability to listen, think through big issues and find thoughtful solutions. The Globe endorses him in the September 13 Democratic primary for governor.
Foulkes grew up in East Greenwich and Providence. And she took a liking to politics very early on. His grandfather, Thomas Dodd, and his uncle, Christopher Dodd, were senators from Connecticut. And his late mother, Martha Dodd Buonanno, was a friend of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
After graduating from Harvard University, she worked for investment bank Goldman Sachs and jeweler Tiffany & Co. before joining CVS in 1992 and working her way up to the upper echelons of management. .
There, she oversaw the creation of the drugstore chain’s ExtraCare customer discount program. And in 2014, she played a leading role in the company’s decision to stop selling tobacco products, sacrificing an estimated $2 billion in sales and founding CVS to rebrand itself as a healthcare company. health.
A photo of Foulkes with first lady Michelle Obama, at an event celebrating the tobacco ruling, hung in his office. And in 2015, Fortune magazine ranked her 14th on its Most Powerful Women list.
His record at CVS is not without blemish. The company has been slow to act on the emerging opioid epidemic. And last month, a federal judge ordered CVS, Walgreens and Walmart to pay two Ohio counties $650.5 million for their role in fueling the crisis.
But any fair reading of her time in business indicates a highly accomplished leader with extensive experience overseeing large budgets and workforces and a knack for big ideas.
Of all the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, she has offered the most detailed and intriguing policy proposals, starting with a proposed $250 million “blue bond for jobs” aimed at bolstering the employment sector. the growing but underachieved blue economy. The money would help develop the state’s offshore wind infrastructure and launch blue tech startups, while carefully directing 15% of investments to minority-owned businesses.
“I would take inspiration from what Boston did in the life sciences 15 years ago,” she recently told The Globe’s editorial board, referring to a state initiative launched by former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. “A billion dollar bond. Government, business and academia come together to build on Boston’s strengths.
On education, Foulkes says she should be judged on the performance of public schools — pledging to forfeit re-election if state test scores do not return to pre-pandemic levels by 2025.
She calls for a smart billion-dollar investment in schools – ensuring that every child can participate in summer learning programs, expanding access to mental health services and providing students with grade 9 algebra the kind of high-impact in-school tutoring that has yielded impressive results in early benchmark trials elsewhere.
These are the kinds of interventions that could help the next K-12 governor’s most pressing task: turn around Providence Schools, which have struggled for years and made only tentative progress since the State took control in 2019 under Raimondo.
Foulkes has plenty of other great ideas too. She would create a state-level affordable housing tax credit to boost production and use financial incentives to address the state’s nursing shortage. This is a personal issue for Foulkes. Speaking to the Globe editorial board recently, she choked up as she described how her father had to wait almost two days for an MRI after a recent stroke because the hospital did not have adequate capacity in medical care.
“It was just devastating,” she said.
Foulkes is in a five-way race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Two of the candidates, former Secretary of State Matt Brown and community activist Luis Daniel Muñoz, languished in single digits in the polls. The other two candidates are Governor Dan McKee, who rose to the post last year when Raimondo stepped down, and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.
Gorbea is an attractive personality and, if elected, would become the region’s first Latina governor. But she did not run a particularly substantial campaign.
McKee led an impressive effort as mayor of Cumberland to establish mayoral-controlled charter schools, some of which worked quite well. And as governor, he signed important gun control and climate legislation. But an education consultancy contract awarded to political allies after an unusual bidding process is concerning — especially in a state with a troubling history of insider trading. And McKee’s support for $60 million in public funding for a minor league football stadium in Pawtucket seems reckless.
What Rhode Island needs is a big-picture leader who can sell the state’s many virtues to the world — and build on those virtues every day she’s in office.
In the Democratic race for governor, Helena Buonanno Foulkes is clearly the best equipped to do this job.
Editorials represent the opinions of the Editorial Board of The Boston Globe. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.