Five Takeaways: 2018 Gubernatorial Debate with Trillo, Raimondo and Fung

Friday, September 28, 2018


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WPRI debate

It wasn’t exactly Rhode Island’s finest moment. The debate between Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo, GOP nominee Allan Fung, and Independent businessman Joe Trillo was an awkward combination of sound bites by Raimondo and Fung and a constant drumbeat of a ‘throw the bums’ out theme by Trillo.

Both Raimondo and Fung had functionally refused to debate their opponents during the primary season and on Thursday nights debate it showed that they could have used the practice.

The debate often lacked flow and interaction. After the debate, each candidate claimed victory.

“Very happy with his performance. Did a great job contrasting his position with the two State House insiders and differentiating himself from Washington Republicans,” said J.R. Pagliarini of the Fung campaign.

“Gina Raimondo made a strong case tonight for reelection. She is bringing the change Rhode Islanders need. Under her leadership, the economy is stronger than its been in decades and no one else running has the backbone to stand up to Donald Trump. Rhode Island’s unemployment is the lowest in nearly 20 years, we’ve created over 15,000 jobs and a record number of Rhode Islanders are graduating high school and enrolling in college. Gina deserves four more years to finish the job,” said David Ortiz, Deputy Campaign Manager.

Dominant Performance

Yes, Independent candidate Joe Trillo appeared to be yelling most of the entire debate, but he dominated the stage hitting both Fung and Raimondo repeatedly. Trillo pounded Raimondo on UHIP and the state’s pension performance under her leadership as General Treasurer.

“I owe no one anything,” Trillo said and reaffirmed that in saying he is more than a spoiler for Fung.

He interrupted, he insulted Fung repeatedly, and controlled much of the debate, at one point saying at least I am not, “A wimpy guy like you [Fung],”

Avoided a mistake

Incumbent Democrat Raimondo was consistent throughout the debate and stayed on message, claiming to have help to create 15,000 jobs during her tenure -- anecdotally, a claim that many small business people in RI bristle at wondering how Raimondo can take any claim on job growth. But, her sound bite was repeated over and over.

Biggest Blunder

The biggest debate blunder was a convoluted and what appeared to be overly practiced but incoherent response by Fung to the question, “Are you pro-choice or pro-life?” Fung’s response was nearly incoherent. He repeated a well-rehearsed, "[It's] a woman’s right to make medical decisions.”

Production Issues

The debate conducted by WPRI was shifted from its usual home at Providence Performing Arts Center to Roger Williams University on a makeshift stage that seemed awkward. The lighting offered a strange green-yellow hue and there was a constant buzz of audio feedback throughout the debate. An abberation for the usually solid WPRI team.

PawSox Blame Game

Both Fung and Trillo criticized Raimondo for her lack of leadership in keeping the PawSox in the state. And, in turn, Raimondo tried to shift the blame to Speaker of the House Nick Mattiello.


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