Rhode Island House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan has announced her Republican run for governor, setting the stage for an expected three-way GOP primary in September 2018 between the West Warwick state lawmaker, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, and former Rep Joseph Trillo of Warwick.
Morgan, 67, unveiled her campaign through a video announcement mixing an appreciation for Rhode Island with a call for change in leadership at the state's top job.
"Our government is broken," Morgan said. "For years, we have seen our state leaders take care of insiders instead of hardworking Rhode Islanders. I have fought against policies that make our cost of living higher, our property taxes soar and our jobs stagnant."
Morgan asserted that Rhode Island "leads the country in the largest amount of public corruption," although the Ocean State's ranking on that scale varies widely in different indicators.
An Ohio native, Morgan moved to Rhode Island due to her former husband's Navy job. She served as chairwoman of the Rhode Island Republican Party during Don Carcieri's tenure as governor, and was first elected to the House in 2010. Last year, she edged Rep. Michael Chippendale (R-Foster) in the vote to succeed Brian Newberry as House minority leader, becoming the first woman to serve in that role. Morgan works as a financial adviser and has three children.
The West Warwick Republican has been a consistent critic of Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo, on issues ranging from budget priorities and the RhodeWorks plan to pay for infrastructure improvements through new tolls on big trucks to the proposed use of public borrowing to help create a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox.
In her video announcement, Morgan aims to identify with Rhode Islanders who have struggled with a changing economy.
"As the daughter of a World War II veteran who fought with the 82nd Airborne and who after the war worked in the Firestone tire factory, I truly understand and appreciate the importance of strong family values, hard work and unequivocal determination," Morgan said.
Jared Leopold, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Assocation, responded to Morgan's announcement with a statement: “Patricia Morgan is a far-right politician who wants to bring Donald Trump’s disastrous agenda to Rhode Island. Morgan is in favor of Trump’s tax plan and Trumpcare, which threatened to jack up premiums, kick thousands off their coverage, and ruin the state’s budget. She tried to restrict access to reproductive services for Rhode Island women and fought to keep guns in the hands of domestic abusers. Patricia Morgan puts her own partisan ideology before the needs of Rhode Island families. She is wrong for Rhode Island.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Fung is slated to announce his own Republican run for governor on Tuesday afternoon, at Chapel View in Cranston. In 2014, Raimondo beat Fung by about four points, becoming the first woman to win an election for governor in Rhode Island. She is expected to announce her re-election campaign next year.
Unemployment has fallen during Raimondo's time in office, amid broader improvements in the national economy. But Raimondo's approval rating hasn't topped 50 percent in publicly available polls, suggesting a competitive and hard-fought race for governor next year. One of her assets is a campaign account with a balance of more than $2 million -- far more than any of her would-be GOP opponents.
Rep. Trillo, who decided against seeking re-election in 2016 after 16 years in office, already has a campaign web site, although he said he has not yet planned a formal campaign announcement. "I'm just going to sit back and watch," Trillo said in an interview. "I'm 99% percent running for governor."
Trillo served as honorary chairman for President Donald Trump's Rhode Island campaign in 2016, although he declined to comment on whether Trump will come to the state to support his campaign.
Trillo touted his background as different from Morgan and Fung. Between starting five businesses "from scratch," he served 16 years in the General Assembly, creating, he said, "the combination needed to be successful" in the governor's office.
This post has been updated.