NEWPORT, RI – There is no better indicator that 2022 will be a historic midterm year for Republicans than the sheer fact that blue seats formerly never in play, now are. Many will point to redistricting, where Republicans were able to make major gains for their playing field, including in blue states like New York.
Not often talked about is this fact that remains true, no matter what party is in office. Incumbency creates laziness. The longer a political figure, party or dynasty remains in office, the more complacent they get. These time-and-again winners pull their weight during the once-a-decade redistricting process, many times at the expense of the party.
Rhode Island is once such case. Despite only having two districts, Rhode Island had the ability to create two solid Democrat districts but instead, kept lines the same so that entrenched and ethically challenged incumbent David Cicilline in Rhode Island’s 1st District could have an easier time getting re-elected. The 2nd district remained lean blue, at D+4, but is now in play due to the national environment.
To add salt to the wound for Democrats, the reputable Boston Globe released a poll just a few weeks ago, showing Republican Allan Fung, leading all hypothetical matchups against his different Democratic opponents and 7 points ahead or more, in each of those races. Currently, not a single Republican represents any of the Congressional districts in New England. Fung hopes to change that by becoming Rhode Island’s first Congressional Republican representative since the 1990’s.
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I met Allan many years back, as we are both involved in the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, a national organization that was started in the 1800’s to support Chinese American railroad workers. We had a wonderful dinner in his hometown of Cranston and I was impressed with his dedication to the community and his steadfast commitment to conservative values despite being in a blue state. In other words, he didn’t have to sell out to win Democrats over. He actually had a desire to communicate and show pragmatically how his values worked with blue voters, something surprisingly rare in the conservative movement..
Results show that his consistent work has been successful. His milestone wins were incremental with a strong foundation. He first started as the lone Republican on his council in Cranston, but eventually was able to bring in more people who shared his vision and within a few cycles, as mayor, he had a governing majority. After a 12 year term-limited tenure, he left office with a virtually unheard-of 82 percent approval rating.
His wife, Barbara Fenton Fung, also ran in 2020 for the state house, and ended up beating the Democratic incumbent speaker of the house, a feat not achieved by a Republican in more than 100 years. This, in a year, when Biden won the state by a bigger margin than Hillary did in 2016. Barbara also won in a landslide, 60-40, a testament to strong community roots.
With Providence being a less expensive secondary market, there is no doubt that investing in Fung’s race is a wise investment for any conservative donors who want to impact a race and see a return on investment. It is important that for conservatives to win, we pragmatically support races with a good chance of winning, no matter where they are in the country.
I caught up with Allan recently in two interviews, one for my nonprofit organization, Asian Industry B2B and the other for my Open Forum show with Josie Harrison, comedian Jo Koy’s mother, targeted towards the Filipino American Community in Las Vegas. Here are some key moments from both those interviews:
Fung credits his high approval ratings in his blue state and blue city to “implementing pension reforms [by] moving out of the defined benefit pension program into a defined contribution, like [401ks] in the private sector. [Also] getting dollars back for retiree health care, getting concessions from unions, making sure that the dollars are [prudently] invested. I took over a city that was on the brink of financial bankruptcy and turned it into one of the best cities to live by implementing sound fiscal policies. These are the same problems that we’re facing as a country right now. We have to tackle overspending which is causing [record] inflation.”
On energy, he says “the lack of true energy policy and energy independence is causing us this spike in our gasoline prices, and never mind our grocery prices [or] the fact that we can’t get baby formula. You sit there wondering, is this Venezuela or the greatest country in the world?”
On his family’s immigrant background, “I was first generation born to this country living the American dream. [Now] this country is going the opposite way. I want to turn it around [to] when my parents came here, [with ample] opportunities for the next generation. They came to this country from Hong Kong, didn’t know a word of English. I could never imagine doing what they did. Not knowing the language, leaving their family, friends and everyone around [them]. All for one thing, the American dream.”
On his work ethic instilled at a young age, he credits it to working in the family business as a child. “[My parents] started a small Chinese restaurant. Back then they only had two choices: a Chinese restaurant or laundry. Probably violated a few [modern day] child labor laws, [as I was] bussing tables, washing dishes at nine years old. But those are the values I carry with me to this day, about hard work and what it takes to run a small business. My parents didn’t want anything from the government. They just wanted the opportunity to start a business, raise a family, and push me and my two younger sisters to do what we wanted to do through the power of education. That’s the American dream. And that’s what’s being lost in this day and age. So that’s why they’re my heroes, and they’ve instilled so much of that value in me. I keep them in mind every single day, when I governed as mayor, and now, what I hope to do down in Washington, DC. We need to aspire to not asking for handouts. Government should be there to help people that can’t help themselves, giving that hand up, but not be this lifeline.”
On his wife, Barbara’s success, “My wife’s a Republican too. And, in fact, we met in 2012 down in Tampa, as we were both delegates to the convention back there, and she ended up hitting me on the head with an umbrella. I turned around and was like, ‘oh, wait a minute, she’s kind of cute’. We ended up having lunch and the rest is history. I’m very proud of her. Like Marc said, first time in 114 years, she upset a sitting Speaker of the House who had been leading our state down the wrong path, with some questionable ethical lapses that he had. So we support each other back and forth on a lot of things, but she’s doing a lot of great things, supporting the Republicans up at the statehouse, even though we’re a small bunch. I’m living vicariously through her now.”
On the COVID mandates: “With mandates, we are seeing the consequences on our kids: two years of not being in school, this distance learning, some of the mask mandates, etc. We’ve got to get these kids back into school learning and interacting with one another. It’s at a point where the more mandates that are coming down, impacts not just our individual liberties, but [has resulted in] documented learning loss on the next generation.They were giving a lot of these kids a pass for not being in school, getting passed onto the next grade when they are fundamentally not ready. [There are also] mental health issues caused by decisions made by policy makers. They weren’t making decisions based on data but on what they wanted to impose on all of us. I am a constitutionalist and a liberty person. Past the pandemic, they still want to keep the states of emergency going so they can impose a lot of different mandates on individuals when that emergency is gone.”
On law and order and fighting back Antifa: “I’ve dealt with these issues as mayor, where our kids had been threatened in our school. Fortunately, nothing happened because we’ve got a great police department, and I’m always going to stand by our law enforcement officials. When you have a properly trained police department and an administration that stands by them, they’re going to do good work.
My city is the second largest next to our capital city, which is run by a Progressive mayor. Some Antifa guys came into Providence one night, where they burned one of the police cars, destroyed and vandalized the Downtown capital city’s mall. It was a horrific night where a lot of our officers had to go in to provide mutual assistance. The next night, they were threatening to come into my city. I stood by our police officers, locked down our city, called in our National Guard and mutual aid. We even had an Apache helicopter flying overhead to send a strong message. Now it might have made a lot of our residents nervous but [thankfully] not a single thing happened in our city, [after] they threatened to come in here. They ended up going up to Massachusetts and burned down a Dunkin Donuts and destroyed a couple businesses.”
Allan will most likely face a well-funded millionaire Democrat, Magaziner, in the general election and will be fighting big money thrown against him to hold the seat for Democrats, but he offers some optimism. “Good news is we’re raising what we need to raise. Rhode Island is a cheap date, in a sense that you don’t have to buy television from Boston, from Hartford or anywhere else. It’s just the Providence media market. I’ve run twice statewide and my name recognition, not only in the district, but statewide still sits in the 90s at 94%.”
Allan recognizes the importance of mentorship on the right. “I’m a voice not just for Rhode Island, but on many issues nationally as well. And a voice for our Asian community to build it up especially from the right side where we’re sorely lacking”
He walks the walk by giving advice and talking about his service mentoring younger candidates: “Don’t ever give up because it’s not easy running. We’ve got a small Asian base in Rhode Island. In fact, it’s only about three to 4% total of our state’s population. But that shouldn’t [be a discouragement]. We need to not only encourage them to run, but support them. And even when they lose, continue to get them involved, whether it’s helping on city or town committees, serving on boards or commissions, being active so that they continue to build up their name recognition. It is critically important. I get calls all the time, and not just out in the New England area, but I’ve traveled to Virginia, Florida, Texas, to help support other Asian candidates. Sometimes it’s just having that support behind you to give you little tips, helping raise some funds behind the scenes financially. That support is critical.”
On his tactical strategy to win, Fung believes he has the right message to win over “a lot of moderate suburban voters, 65 plus age individuals, homeowners, families and an educated electorate” with his message. He is also working with the team that brought another successful mayor into Congress, former Miami mayor and now Florida Congressman Carlos Gimenez. His track record speaks for itself, “we’re losing so much in investments in our business owners, not just big, but small business owners as well. I plan to be that voice of reason, and make sure that people not just in the Northeast, but all across the country have a strong voice who’s not afraid to tackle issues and advocate for them in the right way.” He will achieve this through community forums, targeted campaign touches with independent and Democratic voters and recognizes that while Republicans are outnumbered by Democrats 4 to 1, “there’s a large independent base that really wants to get educated about the issues, and where I stand on those issues. And many of them wait until the last minute to decide. [We will] fight for every single undecided voter, especially those that lean left and are in the middle.”
You can view my full interviews with Allan geared towards campaign strategies and a more general discussion about his candidacy on PHLV Radio and Josie Harrison.