There’s a battle brewing in Rhode Island’s Republican gubernatorial primary this September, with Allan Fung, mayor of Cranston (the state’s third largest city), facing former Moderate-party founder Kenneth Block, who abandoned his creation late last year in order to become a GOP hopeful for Little Rhody’s chief executive.
Block is a wealthy software-company owner who may be best known for helping elect former U.S. senator Lincoln Chafee as Rhode Island’s governor in 2010. Running as an independent, Chafee beat Republican John Robitaille by 8,660 votes; with Block, running as the Moderate candidate, taking over 22,000 votes in his fourth-place finish. That doesn’t endear him to plenty of GOP voters. Nor does his past positions on Obama and Obamacare, both of which he has supported (about which Fung’s campaign is pleased to remind voters). But Block has money, and plenty of it, so he’s very viable.
That said, last week’s Narragansett GOP endorsement of Fung, who is running on a platform of cutting corporate taxes in order to stimulate job growth, is likely a fair and typical statement of party regulars’ popular take on Fung, and their distrust of Block, the 2010 gubernatorial near-loss still a very fresh wound.
Fung is a first-generation Chinese American, a rags-to-riches story of working in his immigrant parents’ Rhode Island restaurant, succeeding in school, and winning election as Cranston’s mayor in 2008 (and reelection twice since, including running unopposed in 2012). He’s proven an adept administrator in a city where Republicans are a rarity – his fiscal policies, including renegotiating union pension contracts, have helped create over 1,000 private-sector jobs there
To those who think Rhode Island isn’t worth Republicans attention, they’d be wrong: In recent years the Governor’s Mansion has been occupied by Donald Carcieri, who preceded Chafee (retiring after one term), and Lincoln Almond.
It’s a long shot, but doable. And important: The state’s economy is typically rated among the worst of the 50 states, and a recent Gallup poll shows residents feel it is a terrible place to live. Any possible economic revival is going to happen in one way: conservative governance. My friends in Rhode Island, including the good ladies who run the Facebook page Girls Just Wanna Have Fung, believe the mayor, who qualifies for the Buckley rule as the rightward-most viable candidate, is the man who can make that happen. I do too, but since I can’t vote for Fung, at least I can contribute, and have, and anyone else who wants to invest likewise can do so here.