Fung, Raimondo campaigns tangle over crime

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Republican gubernatorial hopeful Allan Fung is seizing on a spate of high-profile shootings in Providence this month to criticize Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo.

In a 15-second Web video released Monday entitled “Crime,” Fung said, “Providence is not the same Providence that I grew up in,” adding that Raimondo has been “taking her eye off the ball.” In an email to supporters, Fung cited FBI data showing Rhode Island had the highest murder rate in New England last year.

“I am shocked by how dangerous our state has become under our current governor,” he wrote.

Raimondo’s team responded in its own email to supporters Tuesday signed by Seth Jennings, the campaign’s digital director.

“In a move straight out of Trump’s playbook, Allan Fung has started launching misleading attacks aimed at dividing Rhode Islanders,” Jennings wrote. “We need to be prepared to fight back whenever Republicans like Trump and Fung start peddling fear and hatred in Rhode Island.”

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s office declined to comment on the Fung ad.

Data reported by the city to the FBI shows violent crime fell 50% in Providence between its peak in 1991 and 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, though it has risen slightly in the last two years. The total number of such crimes – aggravated assaults, rapes and robberies – was 1,031 last year.

While Fung himself singled out no specific policies in his narration on the web video, it displayed quotes on screen from two editorials in The Providence Journal that criticized the R.I. Department of Business Regulation for repeatedly overturning Providence Board of Licenses orders shutting down problem nightclubs in the city.

“Even when local leaders stand up, Gov. Raimondo’s administration overrules their voices, making the streets more dangerous,” Fung wrote his supporters.

Raimondo herself faced criticism in 2014 when she ran an ad criticizing then-Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, her opponent in the Democratic primary for governor, over violence in the city despite the ongoing reduction in crime in recent decades.

Fung isn’t the first gubernatorial candidate to criticize conditions in Providence this month. Joe Trillo, the former Republican state lawmaker running as an independent, took issue last week with Elorza’s municipal ID initiative as well as the new Providence Community Police Relations Act that took effect this month.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Dan McGowan contributed to this report.