Top gubernatorial candidates criticized for refusing debates

August 8, 2018

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Two top gubernatorial candidates were criticized by their challengers Wednesday for not agreeing to a series of debates.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has not agreed to any debates before the Sept. 12 primary with challenger Matt Brown. Republican Allan Fung said Wednesday he accepted an invitation from a conservative talk radio host to do one primary debate.

Brown, a former secretary of state, said he’s participating in debates hosted by three local media outlets. He called debates “essential to democracy,” as a way to promote accountability.

“The voters deserve to hear us present our ideas and answer questions in an open format,” he said in a statement.

Raimondo said Tuesday she’s open to a debate if her campaign is convinced it’s a good strategy. Her campaign spokeswoman then told The Providence Journal that Raimondo has no plans to debate in the primary at this time.

Republican challenger Patricia Morgan held a press conference Wednesday to say that Fung isn’t agreeing to more debates because he doesn’t have the courage or policy knowledge to do so. Morgan, the House minority leader, said she demands that Fung agree to forums with local media outlets too, as she has.

“His behavior disqualifies him from being governor,” she said. “He’ll be so easily manipulated because he doesn’t believe in anything, except for his own personal ambition.”

Fung is the mayor of Cranston. His spokesman declined to respond to Morgan’s comments. In announcing the one debate, the campaign said Fung will discuss his vision for how to get Rhode Island on the right path. A date has not been set.

In recent governor’s races, there were multiple forums and debates in the run-up to the primary.

Independent candidate Joe Trillo said voters deserve better, and that debates give Rhode Island voters the opportunity to form an educated opinion about the candidates.

For the 2018 election cycle, Raimondo leads the candidates in fundraising, bringing in more than $7.1 million.

Fung has raised $1 million, followed by Morgan at about $300,000, Brown at $200,000 and Trillo at $160,000.

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