PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Cranston Mayor Allan Fung signaled Thursday he's likely to throw his hat into the race for governor next year, adding his name to the list of those preparing to challenge independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee.
Fung, a Republican, was first elected to a two-year term
in 2008 and won re-election in 2010 and 2012. He faced no opposition in his campaign last November, and is now serving a four-year term after Cranston changed how long its mayors serve.
Fung said in the interview that "a lot of what we're doing - building the city, building that business space - it's really exciting challenges that we have overcome. This is our second year without tax increase, and that's because of those economic development issues." Cranston has about 80,000 residents, making it Rhode Island's third-largest city.
Republicans held the Rhode Island governor's office for 16 years under Lincoln Almond and Don Carcieri before Chafee - who left the Republican Party after losing his U.S. Senate seat - defeated GOP candidate John Robitaille and two other candidates in 2010.
Fung would join a crowded field of potential candidates for governor.
Chafee has said he plans to run for a second term as an independent despite his poor approval ratings. Two top Democrats - Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras - have both said they may run, and a third Democrat - former Auditor General Ernie Almonte - has already thrown his hat into the rating.
Another potential Republican candidate for governor is Brendan Doherty, the former head of the R.I. State Police, who lost his first political campaign to Congressman David Cicilline last November. Robitaille, who came within 8,660 votes of defeating Chafee in 2010, has announced that he won't run again.
Another wild card is businessman Ken Block, founder of the nascent Moderate Party, who said late last year that his third party will field a candidate again in 2014, though he hasn't committed to running himself. Block received 22,146 votes for governor in 2010, and many Republicans still argue he indirectly caused Robitaille's defeat.
January survey by Public Policy Polling showed 55% of Rhode Island voters have a favorable view of Fung. Voters picked him first or second in every potential matchup for governor the poll tested, taking 36% to 23% of the vote depending on which competitors he faced.
Fung would need to raise a significant amount of money to compete. He had $108,572 in his campaign war chest as of Dec. 31, R.I. Board of Elections filings show. That was less than Raimondo ($1.4 million), Taveras ($413,283) or Chafee ($315,902).
Fung was a city councilman for four years before becoming mayor. He lost in his first bid for mayor by just 72 votes in 2006, failing to defeat incumbent Democratic Mayor Michael Napolitano, who went on to retire rather than seek re-election in 2008.
The son of immigrants from Hong Kong who owned a restaurant in Cranston, Fung graduated from Rhode Island College and Suffolk University Law School. Before becoming mayor he worked as a lobbyist for insurance giant MetLife from 2001 to 2009, after previous stints in the attorney general's office and a private law firm.
Fung is also close friends with one of his potential rivals for the governor's office, Providence's Taveras. The pair attended Classical High School together.