Former top Taveras supporter backing Pell for governor

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – He’s not officially in the race for governor yet, but Clay Pell has already picked off one of his likely opponents’ top supporters.

Victor Capellan, who served as deputy campaign manager for Providence Mayor Angel Taveras during his 2010 campaign, will endorse Pell in the race for governor, according to Bill Fischer, a spokesman for Pell.

“Clay has had the opportunity to meet with Victor on a number of occasions and he’s honored to have his support,” Fischer told WPRI.com Sunday. “Victor is a prominent stakeholder, not only in the Latino community, but also the education community and in Rhode Island.”

Pell, the 32-year-old grandson of the late U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell, is expected to formally launch his campaign Tuesday morning during a speech at the Rhode Island Convention Center. He would run in a Democratic primary against Taveras and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, both of whom have already declared their plans to run for governor.

Capellan, a 42-year-old deputy superintendent of schools in Central Falls, briefly considered running for mayor to succeed Taveras, but dropped out of the race in September and endorsed former Housing Court Judge Jorge Elorza two months later.

A veteran political operative within the city’s Latino community, Capellan was seen as a guiding force behind Taveras’s sweeping victory in the mayor’s race in 2010. He was also a member of the education committee for Taveras’s transition team. Filings with the R.I. Board of Elections show he contributed $1,125 to Taveras since 2010, most recently in November 2012.

Danny Kedem, Taveras’s campaign manager, said Capellan’s displeasure with the mayor stems from his brother being fired from a city job.

“Victor Capellan has been unhappy since the mayor refused to intercede on his brother’s behalf when his brother had to be terminated from Providence Water,” Kedem said.

Kedem declined to elaborate on the incident, but city payroll records show Roberto Capellan had worked as a watershed maintenance operator for the Providence Water Supply Board since 2011.

Capellan did not respond to requests for comment on Friday or Sunday.

Pell, a Harvard and Georgetown Law School graduate, has made several high-profile hires since forming an exploratory committee in November. Aside from Fischer, he wooed political operative Devin Driscoll away from a job with Organizing for America to coordinate the exploratory committee and enlisted well-known fundraiser Amy Gabarra to seek campaign contributions.

Pell’s media consultant will be Tad Devine, a veteran Democratic strategist and Providence native whose previous experience includes Lincoln Chafee‘s 2010 bid for governor, John Kerry’s 2004 presidential run and Ted Kennedy’s 1994 contest against Mitt Romney. Prominent Boston pollster Tom Kiley will also work for Pell.

Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan

Ted Nesi contributed to this report.

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