Doherty backs Raimondo as Fung stays on attack

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former GOP congressional candidate Brendan Doherty announced Thursday he is backing Democrat Gina Raimondo for governor, even as his fellow Republican Allan Fung launched a new TV ad attacking her as too close to the financial sector.

Doherty, a former R.I. State Police superintendent who ran a well-funded but unsuccessful campaign against incumbent Democrat David Cicilline in 2012, said he decided to endorse the treasurer instead of the Cranston mayor because he thinks she can do the best job improving the state’s economy.

“To me, this race for governor is about one thing. Who can fix Rhode Island’s economy?” Doherty said in a statement. “I don’t care too much about party labels; it is about results. It is clear after looking at both candidates that only Gina Raimondo has the right ideas, a sound approach and the tenacity to get the job done.”

Doherty is no longer registered as a Republican in his hometown of Cumberland, according to a WPRI.com review of records on file at the secretary of state’s office. His name was being floated as a possible Republican nominee for governor until he announced in May 2013 that he would not seek the office this year.

Fung’s campaign declined to comment on Doherty’s decision. Ironically, former Doherty press secretary Robert Coupe is now serving in the same capacity for Fung.

This isn’t the first time Fung has struggled to get high-profile Republicans on board with his campaign. During the final week of his primary race against Moderate Party founder Ken Block, 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee John Robitaille and House Minority Leader Brian Newberry both announced they were supporting Block despite his notably late conversion to Republican Party politics.

Shortly before Raimondo announced Doherty’s endorsement, the Fung campaign released a new TV ad attacking the treasurer, this time alleging that her bid for governor is “bankrolled by Wall Street” and renewing criticisms leveled by her Democratic primary opponents that she erred by investing state pension assets in higher-fee hedge funds.

“Wall Street interests have dumped more than half a million dollars directly into the Raimondo campaign,” Coupe said in a statement, adding that “the facts demonstrate that Treasurer Raimondo stands with Wall Street, not the people of Rhode Island.”

Raimondo spokeswoman Nicole Kayner shot back that Fung hasn’t made the full contributions required to Cranston’s pension fund. “Allan Fung is recycling the same tired, misleading attacks on Gina that Rhode Islanders have already rejected,” she said in an email. “Everything Gina has done as treasurer is to protect workers’ pensions. The fact is, Gina’s investment strategy is working and is providing strong returns with less risk.”

The “Wall Street” charge has become a consistent line of attack against Raimondo by the Fung campaign. Its first attack ad, which has been airing regularly, criticized her for supporting payment of the state bonds sold to benefit Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios. Raimondo’s campaign is now airing a response that calls Fung’s position imprudent because a failure to pay would put the state’s credit rating at risk.

Fung is preparing for two visits over the next week and a half from high-profile Republicans. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, is coming on Friday, and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney is coming next week.

Politico reported Thursday evening that Hillary Clinton will visit Rhode Island on Oct. 24 to campaign for Raimondo, citing an anonymous source familiar with the event. The Raimondo campaign declined to comment on the report.

Fung’s campaign also said it has decided to cancel a meeting with the Bloomberg News editorial board that was scheduled to take place Monday in New York, citing the fact that Bloomberg’s political action committee has announced plans to air ads supporting Raimondo.

In a statement, Coupe said Fung had planned “to share his vision of government reform and Main Street economic plans with the editorial board” at Bloomberg News, but has now decided “it would be inappropriate to proceed with such a meeting when the result would appear to be a foregone conclusion.”

Bloomberg’s support for Raimondo has long been public knowledge – the billionaire former New York City mayor held a fundraiser for the treasurer last year after publicly shifting his allegiance to her from independent-turned-Democratic Gov. Lincoln Chafee, whom Bloomberg supported in 2010.

An automated robocall poll last month by Rasmussen put Raimondo at 42% and Fung at 37%. The other three candidates on the Nov. 4 ballot for governor are Moderate Party nominee Bob Healey and independents Kate Fletcher and Leon Kayarian.

Campaign-finance reports filed this week showed Fung’s campaign with a significant financial advantage over Raimondo’s: the Republican had $910,763 cash on hand as of Monday, mainly thanks to a recent infusion of $1.1 million in state matching funds, while the Democrat had $333,645.

But outside spending could also have a major impact on the race. In addition to Bloomberg, a super PAC called American LeadHERship is airing a new ad attacking Fung over his record in Cranston. The Republican and Democratic Governors Associations could also spend money if the race says competitive.

Ted Nesi ( tnesi@wpri.com ) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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