PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, who made the case for a second term by promising voters she would continue Rhode Island’s economic momentum, was re-elected Tuesday, handily beating back a challenge from Allan Fung, the Republican mayor of Cranston.
“Tonight, by a resounding victory, the people of Rhode Island said they want to keep going,” she said in her victory speech at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Providence. “We want to rebuild our roads. We want to invest in education. We want to create jobs. We want to preserve people’s health care, and we want to preserve our way of life, where there is a place in Rhode Island for everybody.”
Fung, in his concession speech, tipped his cap to Raimondo for getting her supporters to turn out. “It’s not easy to take on a machine, but we had the courage and the vision to bring the right kind of change to Rhode Island and speak our mind, and I’m damn proud of that fact,” he said.
During the campaign, Raimondo argued that Fung and independent Joe Trillo would take the state backward. She raised more and outspent them by a large margin.
Fung, the leader of the state’s second-largest city, tried to portray Raimondo as incompetent and lobbed attacks at her record, including the disastrous rollout of a public benefits computer system under her watch. Fung, who also lost to Raimondo in a three-way race in 2014, proposed lowering the sales tax and slashing business fees and taxes.
Trillo, a former Republican state lawmaker who chaired President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign in Rhode Island, earned the support of some high-profile Republicans in his independent bid, which prompted the state GOP to complain that Trillo’s campaign was helping Raimondo get re-elected.
As she turns to her second and final term, Raimondo has said she wants to continue offering tax credits and incentives to attract companies to Rhode Island. She’ll also seek to expand job training programs she started and make larger investments in helping small businesses.
Yinka Folami, a public school teacher and registered Democrat in Fung’s home city of Cranston, said the governor’s efforts to invest in public education resonated most with her.
Those include a $250 million bond for school repairs approved by voters Tuesday that Raimondo had championed, as well as plans to expand the state’s free college tuition program so it’s offered at the three public colleges. (Currently it’s offered at just one.)
“Education is one way for people to rise out of poverty and make something of themselves,” said Folami.
Marcella Mazzenga, a 21-year-old unaffiliated voter in Cranston, said she voted for Raimondo because of her efforts to strengthen the state’s gun laws in the wake of recent mass shootings. The Boston University senior said she felt Fung simply didn’t offer satisfactory solutions to the national epidemic.
“Making students feel safe is a huge part of it, but there has to be active policy, as well,” Mazzenga said. “We can’t just have more of the community’s protectors at the schools.”
In her victory speech, Raimondo touted the state’s economic turnaround.
Rhode Island’s unemployment rate recently reached its lowest point in nearly 30 years after having one of the worst in the nation during the recession. The number of jobs based in Rhode Island exceeded 500,000 for the first time in the state’s history in May.
She also framed her victory as a counterpoint to the national political sentiment.
“No matter how divisive or negative or filled with anger and hate political discourse is in Washington, that’s not who we are as Rhode Islanders,” Raimondo said. “We were founded on a principle of tolerance and inclusion. Now is time to hold dear to that value. To rise above that divisiveness and shine through with results.”
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics