Raimondo attack ad on Fung's Cranston actually shows Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Faulty video footage in a commercial is once again causing headaches for Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo.

Fresh off her primary victory last night, Raimondo's campaign began airing an attack ad Thursday morning that criticizes Republican nominee Allan Fung for his record as mayor of Cranston, showing pictures of rundown buildings in a hard-knock neighborhood.

There's just one problem: those streets are in the Silver Lake section of Providence, not Cranston - as the Fung campaign was quick to point out, and follow-up visits by reporters confirmed.

Raimondo's campaign - which has been paying big money to Putnam Partners, one of the nation's leading Democratic advertising firms, for its commercials - did not deny the snafu. "The campaign is reviewing the ad but we stand by the facts: under Allan Fung's leadership, Cranston is a city in distress," Raimondo spokeswoman Emily Samsel said.

Raimondo's campaign pulled the ad off its YouTube page during the afternoon, though it was still airing on television in the early evening.

The error immediately called to mind one of the most embarrassing episodes of Raimondo's first term, when her staff put out a video for the short-lived "Cooler & Warmer" tourism campaign that showed B-roll of Iceland instead of Rhode Island.

Fung's campaign pounced. "Not only is Gina Raimondo running a completely incompetent administration, she's running a completely incompetent campaign," Andrew Augustus, a spokesman for Fung, said in a statement.

"If she spent more time in state, maybe she would know the difference between Providence and Cranston," he added.

Fung critics quickly noted he has also taken heat for commercial footage in the past, recalling a 2014 flap when he shot an ad about improving business in Rhode Island at a diner in Ohio.

Raimondo herself defended the ad earlier in the day while speaking to reporters, before the inaccurate footage was spotted. "These ads are just the facts," she said. "And we stand by them. They're just the facts, and I think it's important for people to know what my record is and what my opponents' records are."

Fung told Eyewitness News, "Everything that comes out of Governor Raimondo's mouth, many Rhode Islanders across the state are not buying it. They've had enough of the dishonest rhetoric, her trying to run away from her record of incompetence."

Raimondo's campaign is spending roughly $134,000 on broadcast TV airtime this week, and has bought $1.7 million since the start of June, according to an Eyewitness News analysis of FCC filings. That amount does not include cable buys.

The Fung campaign is currently airing ads on cable channels but has stayed off local network affiliates since last fall.

Meanwhile, a group backed by Fung's allies in the Republican Governors Association began airing its own attack ad first thing Thursday criticizing Raimondo's first-term record. An FCC filing shows the group, Rhode Island Forward, plans to spend $228,750 airing the ad on local broadcast stations through Sept. 25.

"For nearly four years, Raimondo has built a record of failed promises and lackluster results for her state," the RGA said in a statement Thursday, citing tepid economic growth, the state's low CNBC business ranking, problems at DCYF and the UHIP computer debacle.

The Democratic Governors Association is not yet funding TV ads in Rhode Island to bolster Raimondo, who is the group's vice-chair, but the organization launched a website Thursday called TrumpFung.com that links the GOP nominee to the president.

"While Governor Raimondo has stood up to President Trump’s efforts to rip health care away from thousands and has worked to get guns out of dangerous hands, Mayor Fung wants to bring Trump's policies to Rhode Island," Melissa Miller, the DGA's press secretary, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, conservative independent candidate Joe Trillo said he is not surprised to be facing Raimondo and Fung, and said he has no plans to air his own TV attack ads.

Fung urged voters not to support Trillo in the fall, citing Raimondo's victory four years ago when Bob Healey received roughly 20% of the vote. "Rhode Islanders recognize from the 2014 election that that protest vote is not going to get them the change that they need," he said.

Trillo dismissed Fung's argument. "I say why don't you vote for the person you think can do the best job, and let's get past this nonsense," he said.

Three other candidates - Moderate Bill Gilbert, independent Luis Daniel Muñoz and the Compassion Party’s Anne Armstrong - have also filed to run for governor.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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