Republican gubernatorial hopefuls meet for their only debate
By JENNIFER McDERMOTT
Aug. 31, 2018
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island's three Republican candidates for governor met Friday for their only debate before the primary, with each saying they'd be a more competent leader than the Democratic incumbent.
Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan and businessman Giovanni Feroce participated in a debate on conservative talk radio host John DePetro's show on WNRI.
Fung said he's ready to "shake up the Statehouse." Morgan said she will address Rhode Islanders' struggles and "make Rhode Island great again," a play on President Donald Trump's slogan.
Feroce, who is a longshot, said he has the experience for the job because he served in the U.S. Army and helped jewelry company Alex and Ani grow.
The Republican gubernatorial hopefuls criticized Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo's program to toll trucks, a botched rollout of a computer system for benefits programs and her management style.
"I'm laser focused on the real problem of Rhode Island and that's Gov. Raimondo," Fung said. "And we can't survive another four more years of her and her administration."
Fung said Raimondo failed as a leader because the Pawtucket Red Sox plan to move from Pawtucket, Rhode Island to Worcester, Massachusetts . He said she could've done more to get the team to stay because "when Gov. Raimondo wants to get something done, she gets it done," such as the new truck tolls and a free tuition program at the Community College of Rhode Island.
Fung opposed providing public subsidies to help pay for a new stadium in Pawtucket, rather he wanted to invest in infrastructure surrounding the stadium. Raimondo has said it's hypocritical for him to criticize her for the PawSox leaving when he didn't support the plan to keep them and he's pandering for votes.
Raimondo's campaign said in a statement after the debate that Fung and Morgan "are great at criticizing but have no record of bringing the kind of change Gov. Raimondo is bringing to Rhode Island, and they certainly won't stand up to protect Rhode Islanders against President Trump's agenda."
Fung and Morgan argued during the debate over Fung's priority of cutting the state sales tax from 7 percent to 5 percent. Morgan said Fung hasn't said how he'll pay for it, which is "unbelievably foolish and irresponsible."
Fung said savings could come from cutting waste and fraud. He said he would use his experience in Cranston to draw business to the state and he faulted Morgan for not standing up more to Democrats in the House of Representatives.
Morgan said she'd focus on making people's lives better by reducing the statewide sales tax over time using the sales tax Amazon has to charge, creating three new state business parks and reforming government by creating an inspector general's office. She said she'd stop tolling trucks.
Feroce spoke about making the state a hub for blockchain technology businesses.
DePetro asked the candidates to pledge to support the Republican nominee if they're not chosen by voters on Sept. 12. Fung and Feroce said they would. Morgan didn't commit, but said she wouldn't back a Democrat or independent.
Fung has declined other opportunities to debate. Raimondo has also been criticized for not participating in the typical pre-primary debates.