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Fung Death Incident Not Alone in Politics

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Cranston Mayor Allan Fung is among the few American politicians to seek high office with an accidental death in their past. So few, in fact, that he's almost alone.

When asked for relevant examples to the Fung case, Cook Political Report Senior Editor Jennifer Duffy said "Apart from Ted Kennedy, I can't think of anyone else. No charges/indictment and an expunged record? I'm not sure there is any there, there….."

Adlai Stevenson (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

A little digging, however, revealed the "there." To wit:

U.S. political leader and Democratic presidential hopeful Adlai Stevenson shot and killed a 16-year-old girl named Ruth Merwin when he was 12. At a family party in his Bloomington, Ill., home, Stevenson was demonstrating a drill technique he learned at the military academy. Holding an old repeating rifle he didn't know was loaded, he accidentally shot the girl in the forehead. After a formal inquest was held the jury declared the incident was an accident. In 1948 Stevenson was elected governor of Illinois.

Bill Janklow (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Bill Janklow, a Republican who holds the record for longest tenure as Governor of South Dakota (16 years), served little more than a year in the United States House of Representatives before resigning in 2004 after being convicted of manslaughter in a car accident. In August of the previous year, Janklow was driving 70 MPH in a 55 MPH zone when he ran a stop sign at a rural intersection near Trent, South Dakota. Motorcyclist Randolph E. Scott, 55, struck Janklow's vehicle, was thrown from the bike and died instantly.

POLL: Your Opinion: Fung’s Coming Forward On Accidental Death Now?

"I don’t think the two cases are comparable to Allan Fung’s situation," said Darrell M. West of the Brookings Institution.

"The Janklow case had him stepping down because it was a contemporary case involving a legal conviction. Fung’s case was many years ago and there were no legal charges filed against him. The Stevenson case is an accidental shooting, not a car accident."

Better known in these parts is the Chappaquiddick incident that occurred on July 18, 1969. Mary Jo Kopechne, a passenger of the late U.S. Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy, was killed when Kennedy drove his car off a bridge and into a tidal channel on Chappaquiddick Island. Kennedy survived and left the scene, but Kopechne died in the vehicle. Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury and received a two-month suspended jail sentence.

Fung, a Candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor, admitted over the weekend that he was responsible for a 1989 traffic accident that killed a man. Fung later had the record expunged, leaving no public record of the arrest or charge. He said the case went to a grand jury and he was not indicted. According to Amy Kempe of the Attorney General's office, this is common. Any individual – convicted of a crime or not – may petition the court to have the record expunged.


Related Slideshow: 10 Questions Fung Has to Answer When Running for Gov of RI

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10) Can Fung raise the money necessary to be competitive?

At the last reporting period, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung's campaign had only $336,000.


Ken Block had $540,000 and he just entered the race.  


Democrat Gina Raimondo has over $2.3 million and even Angel Taveras has $759,000 cash on hand.

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9) Is Fung ready for prime time?

Fung is well-liked in Cranston and most everyone thinks Fung is a "nice guy."


Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras can claim they took on tough issues.


Ken Block articulates big ideas and a proven record in business, but out of the gate Fung's campaign seems less than ready.


Fung's campaign manager got confused about how many Democrats Fung has  donated to and his motivation for donating to them. 


Would another four years in Cranston be the wiser path?

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8) Can Fung effectively run against Angel Taveras?

Fung claims Providence Mayor Angel Taveras as a close friend, but it raises questions about inherent personal conflicts and ability to run and effective race.


Politics in Rhode Island is often a blood sport, will Fung approve that knockout punch TV spot in the closing weeks that tags Taveras for the spiraling crime problem in Providence?

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7) Is Fung's base big enough?

For Mayor Fung, his base is Cranston, but he does not enjoy a groundswell of Hispanic voters like Providence Mayor Angel Taveras hopes to bank on (7% of the voters were Hispanic in the General Election in 2012, according to Pew Research).


A race against Raimondo would be tough as she would very likely have a strong block of female voters.


Where does Fung get his votes?

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6) Can Fung defend the tax increases in Cranston?

When Fung runs as a Republican against a Democrat, there is an advantage if Fung can point out a differentiation of fiscal discipline. Fung, as Mayor, had numerous and significant residential and commercial tax increases.


This will not help him against the fiscally prudent Ken Block, but even if he were to win the primary then he would lose the advantage against Angel Taveras in a General Election. Both have ushered large tax increases through their councils.

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5) Why pledge to create "20,000 jobs"? It sounds like Don Carcieri.

Don't know if Fung was paying attention, but GOP Governor Don Carcieri ran on...creating 20,000 new jobs. 


When Carcieri left office, Rhode Island had the worst unemployment in America. Not sure Fung wants to mirror that Carcieri pledge.

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4) Defending Don Carcieri and making him a part of the campaign - is that a good idea?

The collapse of 38 Studios has scarred Don Carcieri's legacy as Governor of Rhode Island. At best, Carcieri was star struck to give a baseball player $75 million -- at worse, Carcieri was part of something far more ominous.


For Fung, who wants to run as the future of Rhode Island, why be associated with Don Carcieri?

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3) Defending the lobbyist role?

In 2014, do we think Rhode Islanders will be looking for a former lobbyist for a large corporation that is cutting Rhode Islander's jobs to be our next Governor?


Lobbyist-turned-Governor will be tougher to pull off than actor Ronald Reagan-turned-Governor of California in the 1960's.

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2) Understand the changing position on gay marriage?

Hard to know what Allan Fung's position is on gay marriage. At different times he offered a range of views.


Some GOP primary voters have been opposed to the RI law and others were supportive, but neither segment of the GOP may understand what his position was -- or is.  

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1) Political donations to local, federal and national Democrats - are you sure you are a Republican?

Fung has given to David Cicilline, US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, former RI Senate President Bill Irons and once RI Attorney General Patrick Lynch. Fung's campaign manager claims he was a lobbyist and needed to donate to Democratic leaders.  Cicilline, Reid and Lynch meet none of those criteria.  


Not only did Fung give thousands of his own dollars to Dems, he turned down requests from leading GOP candidates like John Robitalle and Jon Loughlin who were badly outspent and needed every dollar to win.


The Republican party in Rhode Island is a pretty small group trying to create a pretty big tent - from Scott Avedisian to Doreen Costa. For most Republicans in this state it is tough -- you don't enjoy the political connections and you're part of a tiny minority -- so loyalty matters.


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