Raymond Baccari & Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro
Editor-in-Chief & Managing Editor
Candidates for governor and Congressional District 2 had one final opportunity to give their final pitch to voters in two live WJAR NBC 10 debates on Thursday. Both debates, moderated by “Rhode Island’s Anchorman” Gene Valicenti, took place at Rhode Island College in the Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts. First was a debate for Congressional District 2 between former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and Treasurer Seth Magaziner. Later on was the debate for governor between Gov. Dan McKee and Republican Ashley Kalus.
Fung and Magaziner started off talking about the economy. Fung highlighted the “cost of living crisis” when asked if the country is out of control right now, citing rising inflation, a 97% increase in the cost of home heating oil and a 47% energy rate hike.
Magaziner agreed that the cost of living is rising, but instead blamed the “mudslinging” in Washington, D.C. He indicated support for suspending the gas tax and holding “big oil” accountable.
“The big five oil companies made over $150 billion of profits, record profits, the first nine months of this year, while Rhode Islanders were paying $4 or $5 a gallon for gas,” Magaziner said.
Fung disagreed with the “mudslinging” being the cause of the increase in the cost of living. He blames failed policy and targeted spending driving down the income of families. Fung also disagreed with Magaziner’s reasoning for rising gas prices.
“Right now, price gouging is already illegal, and it’s condemned. I condemn it,” Fung said.
Social Security and Medicare were hot topics as well. Magaziner pointed out that Fung would support a House leadership that includes Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who could try to cut those programs.
Fung refuted those claims, saying, “I will never cut Social Security or Medicare.”
Magaziner doubled down in a rebuttal. He said, “The truth is he has committed to voting for Kevin McCarthy to be Speaker of the House. Kevin McCarthy, and his lieutenants, have said that they want to cut Social Security and Medicare, and they’re willing to shut down the government in order to get what they want.”
Fung responded saying “first of all, I’m never going to shut down [the] government. I’m not that type of person.”
Both Fung and Magaziner clashed on the issue of reproductive rights.
“I will not ban any abortion or criminalize it. Period,” Fung said. “And the reason that we’re having this debate, as vigorously as Seth wants, is because he’s losing in the polls.”
Magaziner countered by comparing his stance to Fung’s on Rhode Island’s Reproductive Privacy Act that passed in 2019.
During short-form questions, Magaziner and Fung had different thoughts on the Supreme Court following a question on court packing. Fung said, “No. I don’t believe in playing games to get a result that you want.” Magaziner didn’t signal support for adding more judges to the bench, but said, “we should look at term limits for Supreme Court justices.”
Both candidates support term limits for members of Congress.
McKee and Kalus squared off in a similar fashion compared to their previous debate at RIC.
A big topic in their previous encounters was the ongoing federal investigation into the ILO contract awarded by McKee’s administration. The same applied to this debate.
McKee, when asked by Valicenti about the federal probe, said, “There’s a review going on. I’ve been asked the question whether I’ve been involved in that review, and I haven’t. And that’s all the taxpayers need to know and the voters need to know.”
After being further pressed by Valicenti on the issue, McKee added, “All I know is what I’ve read. So, go to the people who are doing the review, Gene, if you want to get answers from them.”
Kalus responded, saying, “The FBI doesn’t come in to review. They come in to investigate. And if Dan has nothing to hide, he should simply release the subpoenas.”
Kalus went on the offensive again regarding the state’s RICAS scores being delayed. “If you have the information, officially release it,” she said to McKee.
McKee went on to say that he has nothing to do with the timing of the scores being released, but that he was briefed on the RICAS scores. “Reading is going to go down slightly, math is going to go up,” McKee hinted.
Following this debate, on Friday, the RICAS scores were released.
Both candidates had a heated back and forth when the topic of the truck tolls came about. Regarding the rationale for the state’s appeal, McKee said, “It was in place, and the fact of the matter is, that it was appropriate at that time.” Kalus called for transparency regarding the appeal, stating that government communication is vital, and said if elected, she “will take down the gantries.”
Kalus also claimed that McKee will eventually toll cars, to which McKee assured that he would not do.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. For more information, including a list of the candidates, what voters need to bring with them and where they can find their polling place, see this guide.