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Muñoz calls opponents in R.I. governor’s race ‘performative’

On Rhode Island Report podcast, Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz asks what compromises his rivals have made to raise large amounts of campaign cash

Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz, a Democratic candidate for governor of Rhode IslandMegan Hall

PROVIDENCE — Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz, a Democratic candidate for governor, is accusing some of his opponents of being “performative” on issues such as homelessness and gas prices.

On the Rhode Island Report podcast, Muñoz noted that former secretary of state Matt Brown, a gubernatorial candidate, and Senator Cynthia Mendes, a lieutenant governor candidate, slept in tents outside the State House in December, calling for Governor Daniel J. McKee to do more about homelessness.

“(Brown) assumes that for doing that, that they have done enough to address the issue of homelessness and the housing crisis,” Muñoz said. “My concern is that they’re very performative.”

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Muñoz noted that he and other advocates showed up last summer when Providence officials were attempting to oust about 15 people living in tents on a vacant lot in the West End. And he said he and officials such as Representative Leonela Felix helped with rent relief clinics.

“My point is that my opponent, who slept in a tent, was not there,” he said. “And so who is really willing to risk it all for Rhode Islanders and to improve ... the infrastructure?”

Muñoz said another of his Democratic gubernatorial opponents, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, was being “performative” in calling for a pause in the state’s 34-cents-per-gallon gas tax in response to rising gas prices.

“It makes sense for Rhode Islanders in difficult times to keep money in their pocket, but there’s just so much more that we can do,” he said. “And I largely think it’s performative when the call to action is for something to happen that requires the legislature to agree with you. What can we do immediately?”

Muñoz called for the state to expand a supplemental wage program to work with small businesses to enhance hourly wages, and he called for lowering the tangible asset tax to help “micro-businesses.”

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As a member of the COVID-19 Equity Council, Muñoz also questioned the McKee administration’s focus on equity in areas such as vaccine distribution.

“We have so many issues to address through a lens of equity,” he said. “An administration that has proven that it does not understand it should not be the administration managing $1.1 billion in ARPA funds that are an opportunity for us to truly transform our infrastructure and the programs that are serving marginalized and working families.”

Muñoz received 1.7 percent of the vote when he ran for governor as an independent candidate in 2018. This year, he’s running as a Democrat, but he remains in the back of the pack when it comes to campaign fund-raising. For example, in her first-ever campaign finance report since entering the governor’s race, former CVS executive Helen Foulkes had $830,896 in her campaign account, while Muñoz had $3,356 in his.

“Someone comes in with a million dollars – one has to ask themselves: What kind of deals have they made? What compromises have they made before even becoming governor?” Muñoz said. “If we’re going to continue to rely on who has the most money and whether they should win, nothing changes.”

He said his biggest challenge is to raise enough money to meet the criteria to get on stage in future gubernatorial debates.

While running for governor, Muñoz runs each morning, and he said his running goal for 2022 is to run from the Narragansett Indian Tribe reservation in Charlestown to the city where he grew up – Central Falls.

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Hear more by downloading the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.