PROVIDENCE — In a widely expected move, state Republicans backed former Cranston mayor Allan Fung for Rhode Island’s second congressional district Wednesday night in what could be a hotly contested race that garners national attention.
Meeting at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston for their convention, Republicans also endorsed Ashley Kalus for governor, Aaron Guckian for lieutenant governor, Charles Calenda for attorney general, Pat Cortellessa for secretary of state, James Lathrop for treasurer, and Allen Waters for the first congressional district, according to results provided by the party in an email.
Fung, a two-time Republican nominee for governor, is running to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, who is retiring after this term. Former state representative Bob Lancia, whom Langevin defeated in 2020, had previously announced his intention to run, but he decided not to file paperwork with the state to do so.
Candidates still have to collect valid signatures to actually get on the ballot. It’s unclear whether Fung will avoid a Republican primary. Another Republican, Donald F. Robbio, who lost to Lancia in a previous primary, filed to run in the district, according to state records.
The Democrats endorsed General Treasurer Seth Magaziner Sunday in the race. Magaziner is part of a crowded Democratic primary field in September.
The results of the endorsement votes Wednesday night came as little surprise. Fung had raised significantly more money than Lancia, and a Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll released this week showed him leading every Democrat in the race. If he won the general election in November, he would be the first Republican to win in Rhode Island in three decades.
In public statements Fung has focused on pocketbook issues like gas and food prices, as well as neighborhood safety.
His written statement following the endorsement by the state Republican Party echoed those themes.
“My sole focus will be on the agenda of the hard working people of my district who simply want gas prices to go down, our grocery stores to be full, and our streets safe,” he said.
The Globe poll highlighted the difficult political year that Democrats face even in reliably blue Rhode Island, where only 39 percent of respondents said they approved of the job President Joe Biden is doing and a majority saying the Democratic president should not run for re-election in 2024. The cost of living was the top issue in the poll.
At the top of the ticket, Republicans selected Kalus, a healthcare company executive and Rhode Island newcomer who has already aired TV ads, often with a boxing motif as a nod to her pugilistic experience. She won a New England Golden Gloves championship in Lowell when she was 18.
“It is an honor and a privilege to accept the Republican nomination for Governor of the great State of Rhode Island!” Kalus said in a social media message after accepting the nomination. “Onward to November!”
Incumbent Gov. Dan McKee, who took over when Gina Raimondo joined the Biden administration, received the Democratic Party’s endorsement on Sunday, though the Globe poll showed Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea leading the race right now, with McKee in second and former CVS executive Helena Foulkes in third.
This story has been updated with a statement from Allan Fung.