'I Told You I'd Be Back!': Mayor Wants Rematch With Rhode Island Governor
By Katherine Gregg
Cranston Republican Mayor Allan Fung launched his second run for governor of Rhode Island on Tuesday, armed for battle against Democrat incumbent Gina Raimondo.
"I told you I'd be back!" Fung, 47, told cheering supporters packed into a space-for-lease in the Chapel View shopping plaza, for his long-anticipated announcement.
After losing to Raimondo in 2014, Fung said he made an implicit promise: "If our governor couldn't turn things around, I would be back, back to take on the status quo, the entrenched special interests, and the dysfunction on Smith Hill.
"Well, our governor has failed miserably and it's time to lead our state in a better direction," Fung said.
He then ticked off a list of Raimondo's alleged failings: the UHIP debacle that ensnared his own father, the aborted "Cooler & Warmer" tourism campaign, and big "taxpayer-giveaways."
"This is going to be an uphill climb. We're running against an incumbent governor who has lined her pockets with millions of dollars from Wall Street, from people in Chicago, from people in California ... and other places that [are] not Rhode Island," said Fung of Raimondo, who had more than $2.67 million in her campaign account at last report. "She's going to spend all of that money making excuses for the status quo and attacking me."
"We can do better. We must do better," said Fung, the son of Chinese immigrants, who last reported $179,894 in his own campaign war chest.
His pledges: "Cutting taxes, cutting through the red tape for businesses, cutting the Raimondo administration's out-of-control and wasteful spending, and cutting out the culture of insider deals that benefit the elite."
Fung, who was reelected last November to his fourth and final term as mayor of Rhode Island's third-largest city, first has to win the Republican nomination.
House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan announced her own GOP candidacy for governor on Monday. A third Republican -- former Rep. Joseph Trillo, the honorary co-chairman of President Trump's 2016 Rhode Island campaign -- is also mulling a run. (Among the 350 people the Fung camp counted Tuesday were five current GOP lawmakers: Representatives Robert Nardolillo, Michael Chippendale, Robert Lancia and Kenneth Mendonca and Sen. Elaine Morgan.)
The last time they faced off, Fung finished second behind Raimondo in what was, essentially, a three-person race. She won that 2014 race with 40.7 percent to Fung's 36.2 percent.
Fung was bedeviled during that campaign by Police Department controversies, including the so-called Ticketgate scandal and a series of legal disputes. A subsequent state police assessment of the Cranston Police Department sharply criticized the mayor, his top aides and members of the city police command staff for a corrosive kind of politics in the department.
Before launching his reelection bid last year, Fung acknowledged that he and his administrative team had made "mistakes" in managing police business, but noted he had appointed a new chief from outside the ranks -- a first -- and said the department was "on the mend." ("As you can see, folks, when things break, we fix 'em," he declared at the time.)
Fung heads into his second run for governor touting what he described as Cranston's turnaround and "thousands" of new jobs in his city.
"We've taken a city that was a financial mess ... turned multimillion-dollar deficits into surpluses ... achieved the highest bond ratings the city has seen in over two decades and now have the largest rainy day fund of any city or town in the state!
"We've done it by making the tough decisions, by cutting wasteful spending, and bringing real economic growth to our city," he said, "without giving one single tax dollar to the developers or companies or any millionaires.
"Our governor and her friends on Smith Hill would have us believe that businesses will only come to Rhode Island if we bribe them with taxpayer giveaways," said Fung, suggesting a better way: "Fundamentally change our state's business climate."
He then listed what he called Raimondo's "dumb mistakes," including the short-lived Rhode Island tourism ad that featured the Reykjavik Opera House.
But "this governor's incompetence is no laughing matter," he said of the botched September 2016 roll out of the state's $400-million-plus public-assistance computer system that stranded thousands of applicants in Department of Human Services limbo.
"I think all of us know someone who has been impacted by the incompetence at DHS," said Fung, citing his own family's experience trying to get his father, who has Parkinson's disease, into the Cedar Crest nursing home.
"What's not widely known is that our family got caught up in this UHIP disaster," Fung said. "They [DHS] lost his application, not once, but twice. Cedar Crest, like many other nursing homes across the state, had to float the cost of his care for nearly seven months ... while we were waiting for word on approval. And he wasn't the only one."
"This is not acceptable ... . What we really need is a new leader at the helm," he said Tuesday, on the same day the Raimondo administration announced that Deloitte has given the state a $58.6 million credit.
In mid-afternoon on Tuesday, the Democratic Governors Association lobbed a preemptive strike, linking Fung to President Trump. It said, in part:
"Fung was supportive of Donald Trump during the 2016 election and continues to stand by as his policies threaten Rhode Islanders. Most notably, Fung was completely silent during the Trumpcare debate, which threatened to jack up premiums and devastate Rhode Island's state budget."
Fung "failed to swiftly denounce the Trump travel ban. He refused to condemn President Trump for his divisive comments on Charlottesville in which he defended white nationalists ... More recently, he repeatedly ducked questions about Trump's decision to end DACA ... It's clear that Mayor Fung would be an extension of the Trump administration if he becomes Rhode Island's governor," the DGA said.
(c)2017 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.)