Longtime Republican State Representative Joe Trillo, expected to announce for governor as a Republican, surprised many observers today by announcing that he would run as an independent, assuring at least a three-way general election for governor.

Trillo, 74 of Warwick, served as a state representative from 2001 to 2016 and was co-chair of President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in Rhode Island.

A Republican for at least two decades, Trillo said he felt he has a better chance od winning as an independent, drawing on independent, Democrat and Republican support. In previous elections, Lincoln Chafee, running as an independent, won the governorship in a four-way race in 2010 with just 36 percent of the vote, and Gov. Gina Raimondo won in a three-way race in 2014 with 41 percent of the vote.

Chafee, meanwhile, has hinted that he too may enter the gubernatorial race, likely as a Democrat.

Trillo’s announcement somewhat simplifies a Republican gubernatorial primary election. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan have announced, while businessman Giovanni Feroce has said he expects to announce as a Republican candidate for governor, setting up a three-way primary.

In making his announcement on radio, Trillo said he was “for radical change,” suggesting the “state is going down the toilet.” Trillo said voting for Raimondo or Fung “you’ve got the same old, same old stuff’s going to happen, go-along politics as usual.” Trillo, who appears to be trying to distance himself from the establishment, not only served for eight terms as a state representative, but also as the House minority whip.

Trillo, on his website, said he has worked in the security and alarm business for more than 30 years, has been a leader in several local and national trade associations, and operated the largest chain of music stores in Rhode Island. He also said that in the 1970’s he worked as a charter boat captain, and as an inventor obtained several U.S. patents “for original products he created and designed.”

He is married to Marilyn Cocozza Trillo, a former third runner-up to Miss America. The couple has three children, and give grandchildren.

Trillo, who has loaned his campaign $100,000, has a campaign fund balance, as of Sept. 30, of $130,565; Fung’s campaign fund balance, also as of Sept. 30, was $229,650; and Morgan’s fund balance was $90,968.

Raimondo, meanwhile, had a campaign fund balance as of Sept. 30 of more than $3 million.

While most candidates were silent about Trillo’s announcement, Feroce who said he’s been a Republican all his life, said he expects to run for governor in 2018, and promised to focus on issues, not devolving to personal attacks.

He touted his background as growing up the son of an immigrant, growing up poor in West Warwick, educated in local public schools and at the University of Rhode Island. He talked of military experience, and successful business career.

“I know what it is like and have lived the American Dream,” Feroce said.  “It was the Republican principles of hard work, individual freedoms and less government that made all of it possible.  I would never abandon those principles for political expediency and instead choose to tell my story every opportunity I get.”

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).