Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, creator of the controversial RhodeWorks program, will remain on the ballot for this year’s general election to take on two-time rival Allan Fung.
Rhode Island held its primary election Sept. 12 to determine who would be vying for governor, lieutenant governor and positions in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. (A spokesperson for the state’s Board of Elections explained that the election was on a Wednesday to avoid conflict with the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah.)
Raimondo, the Democratic incumbent who won with 56% of the vote, was serving as state treasurer when she ran for her first term as governor in 2014. She competed this year against Matt Brown, a former Rhode Island secretary of state, and Spencer Dickinson, who previously served in the Rhode Island House of Representatives.
“Thank you to my fellow Rhode Islanders for coming out today in big numbers. We knew it’d be tough, but we did it,” Raimondo told supporters Sept. 12. “I’m going to continue to work my heart out for you. November is around the corner and I am fired up.”
A RhodeWorks sign. (WPRI12 via YouTube)
Fung, a Republican and the mayor of Cranston, also secured 56% of the vote and will square off against Raimondo in November. It will be their second meeting.
Fung, who lost to Raimondo in 2014, bested Patricia Morgan, minority leader of the state’s General Assembly.
Fung has vowed to cancel truck-only tolls — a key element of Raimondo’s RhodeWorks program to fund infrastructure projects.
In a speech before supporters he also said he would ease congestion on Interstate 195 and repair potholes on U.S. Route 6. “I can assure you that that gridlock will be a distant memory when I am your governor,” Fung said. “I know we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re not going to forget any one of you.”
RhodeWorks is projected to generate $4.7 billion to fund such projects as bridge replacements and road improvements. According to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, about 22% of the state’s 1,162 bridges are structurally deficient.
The first two (of an eventual 13) truck-tolling gantries in Rhode Island became operational on June 11. They are in Hopkinton and Exeter, which toe the Connecticut border. The Hopkinton toll is $3.25, and the Exeter toll is $3.50. The tolls are limited to one charge per facility, per day in each direction and do not exceed $40 per day.
Rhode Island Trucking Association and American Trucking Associations have been staunch opponents of the truck-tolling plan.
“Her primary victory was not surprising,” RITA President Chris Maxwell told Transport Topics. “She now carries her abhorrent record into the general election and will face a formidable challenge from Mayor Allan Fung.”
ATA, Cumberland Farms Inc., M&M Transport Services Inc. and New England Motor Freight filed a lawsuit July 10 contesting the constitutionality of the tolling program. The lawsuit maintains that truck tolls discriminate against interstate commerce. If a state charges a user fee for access to channels of interstate commerce, that fee has to be a fair approximation of use and cannot discriminate between in-state and out-of-state interests, according to the suit.
RIDOT Director Peter Alviti filed a motion Aug. 24 to dismiss the lawsuit. Filed in the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island, the motion states that the plaintiffs are asking the court “to do something that is not only extraordinary but something that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction to do.”
A poll by television station WPRI and Roger Williams University, surveying 407 likely voters, projects Raimondo at 39% and Fung at 37%, with 14% of voters undecided.
Rhode Island’s general election is Nov. 6.