Cranston Mayor Allan Fung has tapped a host of prominent Republicans -- including former governors Don Carcieri and Lincoln Almond, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, and Lincoln Town Administrator Joseph Almond -- as part of an exploratory committee for his anticipated GOP gubernatorial run.
Via news release, Fung said Rhode Islanders are hungry for leadership, "someone who has both the private and public sector experience necessary to get Rhode Islanders back to work and get this state back on track.”
He says he'll use the next few months to evaluate whether he "can bring the same success we have had in Cranston to Rhode Island."
“I have assembled a diverse group of individuals to explore whether or not my experience and skill set can help lead Rhode Island into better times. Having been born and raised in Rhode Island, I am heartbroken to see so many Rhode Islanders hurting. People are telling me they are worried about paying their mortgage, putting food on the table, and having enough money to fill their tank for the next job interview. This is unacceptable.”
“For far too long, we have been branded as the worst place to start or run a business, one of the top three states in unemployment, one of the worst states in the country in total tax burden, the second worst state in population growth, and one of the worst states for retirees. We need to change direction and we need to do it fast”
Although Moderate Party of RI founder Ken Block is flirting with a possible GOP run for governor, Fung's candidacy has been widely expected for months. The Cranston mayor, a son of Chinese immigrants, has proven a popular figure, winning election three times as mayor since he first claimed the office in 2008. He has a moderate political profile, although he opposed the legalization earlier this year of same-sex marriage.
Fung's exploratory committee includes the 11 Republicans in the General Assembly, as well as leaders in the RI GOP, former party chairs Mark Zaccaria and Giovanni Cicione, Republican activists, a sprinkling of corporate CEOs (including John Hazen White of Taco and Giovanni Feroce of Alex + Ani); and others.
Fung's announcement comes less than a week after independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee announced he won't seek re-election. Besides Block, the other expected candidates are Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and state Treasurer Gina Raimondo.
Raimondo has led the fundraising sweepstakes, with more than $2 million in her war chest, followed by Taveras with roughly $692,000. Fung's last filing showed him with about $256,000 cash on hand.
Be that as it may, Rhode Islanders have shown a decided preference for GOP governors over recent decades, and a sharp primary between Taveras and Raimondo could work to Fung's advantage.