- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 20, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Narragansett Beer - a Rhode Island icon - is starring in a new political ad.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gina Raimondo released a TV commercial Wednesday using the story of the beer’s rise, fall and rise again to highlight her plans for a manufacturing resurgence to boost the state’s sagging economy.

Sales of the once-fabled beer languished and the Cranston brewery ultimately closed for good in 1983. But a 2005 investment from Point Judith Capital, the venture capital firm Raimondo co-founded, helped two Rhode Islanders buy Narragansett back from Pabst Brewing and open a headquarters in Providence’s Jewelry District.

The general treasurer’s ad features the old-time Narragansett Beer jingle with its slogan, “Hi Neighbor! Have a ‘Gansett.” The beer had a cameo in the film “Jaws,” when the shark hunter Quint crushes a can with one hand to intimidate the oceanographer played by Richard Dreyfuss.

In an interview after a campaign forum at the Rhode Island Convention Center, Raimondo said her new ad is about a comeback story, as Narragansett is once again a top seller in New England.

“Rhode Island needs a comeback,” said Raimondo, who prefers the summer ale. “I want to convey to people that we can do this.”

She said Point Judith invested about $1 million in the company.

The vast majority of Narragansett is now brewed in Rochester, New York, but the hope is to establish a local brewing presence in the next 12 months, said Jim Crooks, vice president of sales and marketing.

The governor’s race is in the home stretch before the Sept. 9 primary, and the campaigns have become increasingly competitive in both parties. Raimondo faces Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, former Obama administration official Clay Pell and contractor Todd Giroux. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and small businessman Ken Block are seeking the GOP nomination.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a Democrat, is not running for re-election.

The Rhode Island Hospitality Association sponsored a forum Wednesday that focused on the role the hospitality and tourism industry can play as an economic driver in the state. The candidates talked about streamlining business regulations, creating a statewide marketing campaign to boost tourism and whether they would reform the unemployment insurance system.

One of the lighter questions was about the candidates’ favorite restaurant. Raimondo said Angelo’s on Federal Hill, while Taveras picked Siena - and Gregg’s. Pell gave his nod to Anthony’s Seafood in Middletown. Giroux chose Jacky’s Galaxie.

Fung named Twin Oaks in his home city. Block said he couldn’t pick just one.

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