Please, no “Fung for Governor.”

Criticisms of Allan Fung among Rhode Island Republicans have always struck me as either too demanding for purity or else founded in personal animosity (albeit perhaps with some justification… I don’t know).  He was a solid Republican mayor and, from what I could see, a reasonably loyal member of the party.  Given the GOP’s position in Rhode Island, one can’t expect the fields to sprout politicians who never stray, from cradle to grave, and put party building ahead of their own prospects.

So, claims that Fung was faking his party membership have never resonated with me.  Moreover, the biggest hit against him thus far, a big report from the State Police, struck me at the time (here and here) as more plausibly evidence of that agency’s corruption under Governor Gina Raimondo.

I was a little surprised, therefore, to find myself thinking, “Please, no,” while reading Dan McGowan’s Boston Globe column suggesting Fung should run for governor rather than treasurer, which the former mayor has apparently been considering:

The former Cranston mayor just completed his first full year out of politics in almost two decades – he’s a law partner at Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O’Gara LLC – but he clearly misses the game. He’s been talking to friends and supporters behind the scenes about running for state treasurer, which might be easier to win, but would undoubtedly be less fulfilling.

McGowan thinks Fung would be a match for any of the Democrat candidates, all of whom will come out of a primary competition bruised and with crooked noses, and maybe so.  To be sure, compared with them, it would be difficult for Republicans outside the inner rings of the game to see a reason not to prefer Fung.

That said, his detractors within the GOP can make a much stronger case for distrust now that Rhode Islanders have seen his wife, Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, in action.  She’s gone from recognition as a leader of Young Republicans more than a decade ago to potentially being one of the most radical members of the General Assembly.  (See, e.g., here and here.)  On a personal level, McGowan highlights Fenton-Fung’s feud with party chair, Susan Cienki, and she reinforced that tendency with her gratuitously aggressive and condescending response to Patricia Morgan’s travails last week.

A husband and wife can have very different political views, of course, but the feeling that Fenton-Fung pulled a massive bait-and-switch on conservatives — who have also been noticing that Nicholas Mattiello was much more of a firewall than they’d thought when they helped Fenton-Fung take him out of the General Assembly — will stain her husband, too.  More importantly, the prospect of solidifying her status as half of a cross-State House power couple is enough of a practical concern that some voters who prefer Republicans will have to consider whether the long-term risk of elevating her stature is greater than the near-term benefit of better governance from the chief executive’s office.

That better governance might be slight, in any case, given that Fenton-Fung’s chamber of the legislature has a quietly progressive speaker and the Senate president is a union stalwart who has proven his willingness to swing non-union-issues to the progressives when opportunity arises.

Whatever Rhode Island needs in a governor, Fung isn’t it.  At least not now.  The above concerns won’t apply nearly as much to the race for General Treasurer, and political circumstances will certainly change over four or eight years.  Who knows but that Allan’s significant other will join other Rhode Islanders in waking from the radical madness that has been sweeping the land and apologize for her role in it.


Featured image by Kenneth Zirkel on Wikipedia.

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