- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Democrat Gina Raimondo and Republican Allan Fung went after each other’s leadership and decision-making in the first televised debate of the Rhode Island governor’s race, while voters also got an introduction to a wild-card Moderate Party candidate.

The three met Tuesday evening at the Providence Performing Arts Center in a debate that was televised live on WPRI-TV.

Raimondo, the general treasurer and front-runner in the race, called the $200-million tax-reduction plan at the center of Fung’s economic plan reckless and said it would harm an economy that is already one of the nation’s worst.

“It is a reckless plan that would double the budget deficit and result in painful cuts” in education and other areas, she said. “It would hurt working families and take a bad economy and make it worse.”

She accused Fung of mishandling a ticketing scandal within the police department of Cranston, where he is mayor. Raimondo said he didn’t move quickly enough to address allegations that citations were issued as political payback and that the department was plagued by other scandals.

Fung, meanwhile, highlighted Raimondo’s rehiring of a financial services firm being sued in the 38 Studios deal, which gave former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s video game company a $75 million state-guaranteed loan. Only two firms bid for the job.

“I question her judgment,” he said.

Fung also criticized Raimondo over the 2011 overhaul of the state’s public-pension system, which she touts as her signature achievement. He said she didn’t bring the parties together to negotiate, which might have saved the state from the costly litigation now underway. Some unions that traditionally back Democrats have declined to endorse Raimondo because of lingering anger.

Raimondo and Fung had appeared together for multiple forums and debates ahead of September’s primary, but they trained their fire then on their respective primary opponents. This was the first time voters got to see them go after each other directly.

Moderate Party candidate Robert Healey, who is polling in the single digits, opened the debate by asking voters to take a good look at him, saying they won’t see him in the home-stretch blast of campaign ads because he hasn’t taken any contributions.

He rejected the idea that a vote for him is a wasted one, saying it’s a waste anyway if voters don’t pick the person who best represents them.

“If you want to pick winners, I say go to the race track. If you want to pick a leader, you have to choose wisely when you go to the polls,” he said.

The state GOP sought to keep Healey off the ballot after the Moderate Party’s initial nominee had to step aside.

Raimondo is several points ahead in recent polling, but Republicans say they’re within striking distance. Fung opened a big money lead after Raimondo spent down her campaign funds in her three-way primary. An increasing number of outside groups are running ads on behalf of the treasurer.

The campaign’s dominant issue has been the weak economy. Raimondo, whose mantra is “putting Rhode Island back to work,” wants to oversee a resurgence of manufacturing. Fung, who pledges to make the state “open for business,” says his tax-cut plan will spur growth.

Both said Tuesday that their leadership is what’s needed to turn Rhode Island around.

The Providence Journal co-sponsored the debate.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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