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RI POLITICS

US Chamber of Commerce endorses Fung for Congress

Stephen McAllister, the chamber’s regional vice president and the Democratic Warwick City Council president, spoke about why the chamber is backing the Republican former Cranston mayor

From left to right, Stephen McAllister, the US Chamber of Commerce's Eastern Region vice president, joins Republican 2nd Congressional District candidate Allan W. Fung and David J. Levesque, owner of Brewed Awakenings Coffee House in Warwick.Edward Fitzpatrick

WARWICK, R.I. — The US Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday endorsed Republican Allan W. Fung for the 2nd Congressional District seat that Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin is vacating.

Stephen P. McAllister — the chamber’s Eastern Region vice president and the Democratic president of the Warwick City Council — announced the endorsement at the Brewed Awakenings Coffee House in Warwick.

“We need more people like Allan to go down to D.C., work together, and deliver for their districts,” McAllister said. “The US Chamber is about rebuilding the middle, about supporting pro-business and free-enterprise people in Washington, D.C., to get together.”

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McAllister declined to say who he plans to vote for in the Nov. 8 race, which pits Fung, a former Cranston mayor, versus Democratic state Treasurer Seth Magaziner. He noted he was representing the Chamber of Commerce at Tuesday’s event, and he said the organization has endorsed both Republicans and Democrats.

In endorsing Fung, McAllister cited two legislative initiatives that were led by Democrats and that received support from some Republicans — the infrastructure bill and the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which aims to boost domestic high-tech manufacturing and compete with China.

“Big things can happen when Congress gets together, negotiates, and moves things forward,” McAllister said. “A perfect example of that is a bill that I know that (Fung) supported was the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which is sorely needed.”

The infrastructure bill was the No. 1 issue for the US Chamber of Commerce because its members emphasized the need for improving not only roads and bridges but also airports, ports, sewer lines, and broadband, McAllister said. “That could not have been passed if it wasn’t for bipartisan support,” he said.

In November, the House passed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill by a vote of 228-206, with 13 Republicans bucking their party leadership and joining all but six Democrats in support. The legislation represented a central plank of Democratic President Joe Biden’s economic agenda.

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In July, the House passed the $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act by vote of 243-187 vote, as 24 Republicans defied the leadership and joined Democrats in backing the measure. The legislation represented a top priority of US Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo, the Rhode Island Democrat who beat Fung in the 2014 and 2018 Rhode Island gubernatorial elections.

So if Democrats led the push for those bills, why do they represent an argument for sending a Republican to Congress from Rhode Island?

“Balance,” Fung said in response to the question. “We haven’t had a Republican sitting in that office in 30-plus years. We need a balance, the opposite voice.”

With Republicans looking to take back the majority in the House, he said, “You are going to want someone on the opposite side, someone who can work across the aisle to be that common sense voice, problem solver that can work with Democrats or Republicans alike to drive home legislation and the budget with targeted money” for local businesses such as Brewed Awakenings.

Fung said that during his 12 years as mayor of Cranston, he worked with Democrats to tackle big issues such as the city’s unfunded pension liability. He said he was able to work not only with Democrats but also with unions and retirees.

“That was difficult,” he said, “and that is the skill set I will bring down to Washington, D.C.”

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The US Chamber of Commerce endorsement comes one day after Rhode Island’s all-Democratic congressional delegation endorsed Magaziner in the 2nd Congressional District race.

“What do you think they were going to do? Not a surprise,” Fung said. “We are out there every single day — at coffee shops, at restaurants — just talking to the voters because it’s their endorsement that matters the most to me.”

US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat who has been outspoken about climate change, tweeted, “Fung says he won’t be horrible on climate and then takes endorsement from fossil-fuel-funded ‘worst climate obstructor’ #ChamberofCarbon.”

On Sunday, the New York Times reported that six Trump-backed Republican nominees for governor and the Senate in midterm battlegrounds would not commit to accepting this year’s election results, and another six Republicans ignored or declined to answer a question about embracing the November outcome.

But Fung said he plans to accept the results, even if he loses. “It’s a process. I’ve gone through this,” he said. “I respect the process. Always have. Always will. And that is how I will proceed.”

Afterward, Magaziner issued a statement regarding the Chamber of Commerce endorsement, saying, “Allan Fung is showing his true colors yet again, standing with billion-dollar corporate lobbyists who oppose the Affordable Care Act and any efforts to crack down on the price gouging that is hurting Rhode Islanders at the gas pump.”

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Magaziner said that on Tuesday night he will be accepting the support of the AFL-CIO, which represents 80,000 workers across the state of Rhode Island. “In Congress, I will stand with working Rhode Islanders, while Allan Fung stands with the corporate lobbyists,” he said.


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