Xaykham “Xay” Khamsyvoravong spends much of his time in the modest campaign headquarters of state Senator Frank Caprio, the Democratic candidate for state general treasurer. A closer look reveals something unexpected about the candidate’s campaign manager. Khamsyvoravong is 22, and he calls the campaign staff he leads the youngest in the state. The 12 part- and full-time staffers are all under 26.
BUSY GUY: Khamsyvoravong.
While this kind of leading role for a young person isn’t unprecedented — Christopher Bizzacco, who became Providence Mayor David Cicilline’s chief of staff at age 24, ran Cicilline’s 2002 campaign as a Brown undergrad — it still stands out in a field dominated by older and more experienced operatives.
A Barrington native, Khamsyvoravong became interested in politics when he was elected to Student Government at Brown, filling out his resume with a summer fellowship at Yale Law School, and internships at Harvard Law School, the RI Attorney’s General’s Office, and the RI Public Defender’s Office. He met Caprio through a fraternity friend and began his involvement in the campaign by “tagging along to events.”
Although small in stature, Khamsyvoravong is clearly motivated. His hectic days include mornings spent in class at Brown, where he is completing a combined bachelor’s-master’s degree at the Taubman Center for Public Affairs, afternoons at Caprio’s campaign headquarters, and often-late evenings attending campaign events around the state.
Caprio is considered the favorite in the treasurer’s race — his family’s friendly relations with Governor Donald L. Carcieri led some to wonder whether he would face a Republican opponent — although GOP candidate Andrew Lyon subsequently got into the race.
With his eye always on the future, Khamsyvoravong says he is leading this campaign to gain political experience. Asked if he harbors political aspirations, the youthful campaign manager skittered around the question by replying that he “wants to see what opportunities open up after graduation.”
Khamsyvoravong, who has a natural ease, says he “just wings it” some of the time. He calls himself a “jack-of-all-trades,” because he performs a variety of tasks, ranging from coordinating television commercials and meeting with donors to parking cars at campaign events.
“Xay is with me everyday,” Caprio says, “and has established himself very quickly as a leader on the local political scene. The best way to describe Xay is [that] he’s part Jim Carville and part Karl Rove. He [is] competitive and likes to win.”
His versatility also applies to his life off the campaign trail. Khamsyvoravong, who has been a nationally competitive ballroom dancer and ice dancer, is an avid sailor whose current team, the Newport Storm, recently placed fourth at the US Sailing Championships in San Diego.
With Election Day drawing close, however, Khamsyvoravong is closely focused on Caprio’s campaign.