PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy visited Rhode Island on Saturday to raise money for congressional candidate Allan Fung, in another sign that GOP leaders in Washington have high hopes about Fung’s campaign.
McCarthy — an ally of Donald Trump who is poised to become House speaker if Republicans retake the majority — posted a photo on his Twitter account side by side with Fung on a lawn overlooking the waterfront.
“Great day with a great candidate,” McCarthy wrote. “Let’s turn #RI02 red @AllanFungRI.”
A person familiar with McCarthy’s visit told 12 News the GOP leader headlined a private fundraiser for Fung at a Jamestown home belonging to a member of the Tasca family, owners of various local car dealerships.
R.I. State Police Col. Darnell Weaver also confirmed that his agency “assisted the Secret Service during Minority Leader McCarthy’s visit,” but declined to comment further.
Fung’s campaign hasn’t responded to questions about McCarthy’s visit for more than a week, ever since it was first reported by the Capitol Hill outlet Punchbowl News. Fung had not posted about McCarthy’s visit on his Twitter account as of early Saturday evening.
A spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday. McCarthy had been in neighboring Connecticut on Friday to visit Republican candidates there.
Democrats appeared as happy about McCarthy’s visit as Fung, asserting that the Republican leader’s stop in Rhode Island vindicates their argument that Fung won’t operate independently of Washington Republicans if he is elected to succeed retiring Democrat Jim Langevin.
James Singer, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, compared Fung’s new photo with McCarthy to the infamous picture of Fung wearing a “Trump” hat at the former president’s 2017 inauguration. Democrats have used that photo as a weapon against Fung ever since.
“Can make a promise: Democrats will make sure voters see this photo again and again,” Singer tweeted.
Individual candidates also weighed in. The campaign of Sarah Morgenthau, one of the Democrats seeking the 2nd Congressional District nomination, noted that McCarthy’s initial tweet misspelled Fung’s first name as “Allen.”
“Allan Fung is rolling out the red carpet for Kevin McCarthy and his radical far-right agenda, proving once again he is out-of-touch with the voters of the 2nd District,” said Morgenthau campaign manager Bryan McNamara.
The response was similar from Seth Magaziner, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, who had already been working to tie Fung to McCarthy on the campaign trail.
“MAGA Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy supports privatizing Social Security, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and passing a national abortion ban,” said Patricia Socarras, a spokesperson for Magaziner.
“The fact McCarthy is campaigning for Allan Fung in RI confirms what we already knew — Fung and the extremists Republicans would be a disaster for Rhode Island seniors, Rhode Islander workers and Rhode Island women,” she said.
The only public poll of the 2nd District race so far, released in June by The Boston Globe and Suffolk University, showed Fung leading Magaziner 45% to 39%, with 17% of voters undecided.
12 News political analyst Joe Fleming said the reaction showed there were upsides and downsides for Fung to McCarthy’s visit.
“The upside is simply that it shows that Republicans nationally are behind him, and it should help raise money nationally,” Fleming said. “It should also help him raise money here in Rhode Island. So fundraising-wise, it could be a big plus for him, no question about that.”
“On the negative side, I have to assume the Democrats are going to go after this because Kevin McCarthy is a big Donald Trump person, and they’re going to tie Kevin McCarthy to Donald Trump and tie Allan Fung to Kevin McCarthy,” he said. “So they’ll try to use this as part of the ‘Trump card’ against Fung.”
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook
Tim White contributed to this report.