Republican gubernatorial candidates Allan Fung and Ken Block both support Common Core, cutting taxes, shrinking government, federal – not local – immigration reform and a women’s right to an abortion.
And despite admitting they would support the other in the general election during Tuesday night’s WPRI/Providence Journal debate, the thing they seem to agree on the most is the belief that their opponent would be a bad governor of Rhode Island.
Fung called Block a “political opportunist” and “not a real Republican.” He said he “has a difficult time reading municipal budgets” about an accounting error Block admitted to. “How can we trust him” with the state budget, he asked.
Block, on the other hand, said Fung is too familiar with local government. “If you’re happy with Rhode Island the way it is, vote for my opponent, or one of the other Democrats,” he said during his closing remarks.
At different points during the debate, they each paraphrased Ronald Reagan’s famous “there you go again” quip to Jimmy Carter. They each blamed the other for the negative tone of the campaign.
“This campaign has been full of venom, vile and half truths,” Block said. “We didn’t start the negativity. You have to respond at some point, anyone who watches politics knows it.”
Fung responded, “I think the viewers of Rhode Island see where much of the negativity and half truths have been coming from in tonight’s debate.”
They even both agreed they didn’t know yet whether they support Education Commissioner Deborah Gist’s recent decision to delay implementing a high stakes test graduation requirement. (Don’t forget, she was appointed by Republican Gov. Don Carcieri)
One rare instance of policy disagreement came on unemployment insurance.
Block says unemployment insurance in Rhode Island covers more seasonal employees than in other states. “We must fix it,” Block said. “There’s no more Republican ideal than having those who heavily use the system pay their fair share.”
But Fung counters that Block is effectively advocating for raising taxes on seasonal businesses such as those in tourism, agriculture and construction. “That is going to crush the seasonal industry,” he said. “I would not support tax raises to those seasonal industries.”
Both, however, agree that the economic burden is best dealt with at the employee level.