With exactly five weeks until Rhode Island's primary election, GOP gubernatorial candidate Patricia Morgan intensified her criticism of Republican rival Allan Fung on Wednesday, accusing him of hiding from voters and masquerading as a conservative.
"Since the very beginning of this campaign, my opponent Allan Fung has been hiding from voters," Morgan said during a news conference at her Warwick campaign office. "I think he has been trying to confuse them. Either he comments on nothing or he takes both sides of the same issue. Either way, he's trying to fool voters just like Gina Raimondo did in the last campaign ... It's say anything to get elected and then do what you want."
Morgan accused Fung of being "Republican lite." She charged that the Cranston mayor is "pro-choice, but trying to hedge." Morgan, who said she has had a gun since she was 12, accused Fung of being a latecomer on supporting gun rights. She also described herself as being more fiscally conservative.
Rhode Island Public Radio requested an interview with Fung to discuss Morgan's criticism. Fung's campaign declined comment on her comments.
Fung has declined to take part in televised debates with his two GOP rivals and he has remained largely shielded from reporters since his announcing his run for governor last October, when his campaign did not make him available to take questions from reporters. Fung's campaign announced Wednesday that Fung will take part in a primary debate on the John DePetro Show; Morgan called that a response to her intention, signaled last week, to criticize Fung for avoiding debates.
Polling by WPRI-TV and Roger Williams University shows Fung attracting more support than Morgan, the outgoing GOP leader in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, and businessman Giovanni Feroce. But with the September 12 primary election drawing closer, Morgan said Fung's approach is bad for voters.
“He tries to hide from them. That disqualifies him from being governor in my opinion. Seriously, if you don’t have the ability to be clear and forthright with the people before the election, you will not have the testicular fortitude later. The problems become worse once you’re in office.”
Morgan called debates and detailed issue-based stances from candidates a vital part of democracy.
"If the voters don't know who we are and what values guide our life, what principles make up our core system of decision-making, they don't know what kind of chief executive we're going to be," she said. "And if you don't know as a candidate what your core principles are, what you believe in, what values drive your life, then you have no business seeking the office."
Morgan said Fung should take part in debates with each of Rhode Island's major broadcast outlets.
Meanwhile, Gov. Gina Raimondo faces criticism from her top Democratic rival, former Secretary of State Matt Brown for ducking debates.
“Debates are absolutely essential to democracy," Brown said in a statement. "Gina Raimondo and I have very different visions. The voters deserve to hear us present our ideas and answer questions in an open format. Like the free press, debates promote accountability that is so crucial, especially in our current political climate. It's hard to believe that we might see a Democratic candidate for Governor of Rhode Island refuse to debate in a primary election in 2018."
Emily Samsel, campaign spokewoman for Raimondo, responded with this: "Governor Raimondo has no plans to debate in the primary at this time. As we've seen time and again Matt Brown won't act in good faith when given a platform -- his repeated lies and false accusations are unfair to Rhode Island voters and our Democratic process."
Unlike Fung, Raimondo routinely takes questions from reporters after campaign stops and other news events.