Citing his success in gaining passage of the marriage equality bill when people told him it was a lost cause, Frank Ferri said Tuesday evening he’s taking on the odds again and expects to be the state’s next lieutenant governor.
Ferri formally announced his candidacy at Embolden Design, a digital communications company with offices in converted mill space in Pawtucket on the Providence line. His entry into what is now a three-way race for the Democratic nomination with Ralph Mollis, who faces a term limit as Secretary of State, and Cumberland Mayor Daniel McKee doesn’t come as a surprise. The Warwick state representative, who owns and operates Town Lanes bowling lanes in Johnston, made his intentions known more than a month ago and has been lining up support ever since.
It’s been effective. The word is out.
He had an enthusiastic crowd that included a few of his colleagues from the General Assembly as well as Warwick Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon and his son Joseph Jr., who has announced for the District 22 seat Ferri now holds. Ferri’s supporters frequently interrupted his announcement with applause, cheers and a lot of waving of blue and white “Ferri for Lieutenant Governor” signs.
Ferri defined the job he aims to win as a watchdog to hold public officials accountable; an advocate for entrepreneurs and small business innovators who will rebuild and revitalize the state’s economy; and continuing to be a champion for protecting the critical health care reforms that have allowed thousands of individuals and hundreds of small companies to access quality, affordable health care. He praised Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts for the work she has done in health care.
“I am running for lieutenant governor because those of you in this room, and all of my supporters, have been looking for something new. We are looking for new ways of thinking and better ways of solving Rhode Island’s challenges,” he said.
But unquestionably, it is the success in gaining marriage equality for gays and lesbians that not only distinguishes him from his opponents, but also has emboldened him.
“I am passionate about public service and about fighting for social justice. My husband and I have been together for 33 years … We joined the campaign for marriage equality, along with many of you, because what we wanted was simple – to be treated fairly. We wanted to get married right here in Rhode Island, surrounded by our family and friends, because this is our home that we love,” he said.
In welcoming remarks, Embolden President Ann-Marie Harrington said she is supporting Ferri because of the work he did for marriage equality and because as a small business owner he understands the needs of businesses. Edward Bonetti a longtime friend who shared the role of introducing Ferri with Scott Duhamel, used the words compassion, empathy, integrity and “lives by his ideals” to describe the candidate.
“When he recognizes things need to be changed, he gets involved and takes a role,” he said.
Duhamel, business representative and Labor Management Cooperation Initiative trustee for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades as well as secretary-treasurer for the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council, called Ferri “tenacious” when it comes to getting a job done.
On his pledge to help small business, Ferri said he would look to have the lieutenant governor assist business in educating them on succession plans. He contends many small businesses close when their owners retire because they haven’t planned for a successor.
“Helping businesses prepare for key transitions will avoid closures and keep R.I. jobs when an owner retires or faces other unexpected challenges,” he said.
In his own case, he said after his speech that he is fortunate to have a general manager who would step in should he be elected.
Ferri also issued an appeal for the help of supporters.
Citing the economy and the state’s reputation for corruption, which he aims to address by giving more teeth to the Ethics Commission, he said, “Yes, my friends, we could all use a little hope right now, and I can use a lot of help.”
In a meeting with reporters following his announcement, Ferri didn’t answer when asked what he expects he’ll spend on his campaign.
“Whatever it takes,” he said.
As for his first bid for a statewide office, Ferri seemed undaunted.
He reminded reporters he was “an outsider” when he first ran for state representative.
And who among the Democratic candidates for governor is he supporting?
Ferri said he’s not getting drawn into that fight.
“My campaign is about me,” he said.