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R.I. GOP endorses Fung for governor, Flanders for Senate

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — State Republicans endorsed Cranston Mayor Allan Fung for governor and former Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, after a long night of speeches about the need to “bulldoze” the State House and take back political power.

Meeting at the Providence Marriott Downtown, the state GOP endorsed Fung for governor over House Minority Leader — and former state Republican Party Chairwoman — Patricia Morgan, who did not seek the endorsement after publicly alleging the vote was “rigged” against her and former state Sen. Giovanni Feroce.

“I’m so proud that we’re uniting the party faithful, and focusing our eyes on one target: the governor’s seat,″ said Fung, after the results were announced just before 11 p.m. “Gina Raimondo and her incompetent administration have got to go.”

“The days of ridiculous infighting are over,″ he said. “We need to bulldoze the State House and hold the people in those seats accountable. The only pet projects that will get through are those championed by the people: like the line-item veto ... like the office of the inspector general ... like common sense welfare reforms such as strong work requirements for the able bodied!”

The majority of the 153 Republicans voting chose Flanders over two-term state Rep. Robert Nardolillo, amid murmurings that Nardolillo, a Republican from Coventry, may have complicated his chances by breaking ranks with most of his fellow House Republicans on the 66-to-7 vote for the new $9.6-billion state budget crafted by the General Assembly’s Democratic leadership.

Asked why he voted for the budget, Nardolillo said the final version restored money that Governor Raimondo, a Democrat, initially sought to cut in areas important to him. He cited money for the developmentally disabled population, as one of several examples.

Nardolillo’s vote may have helped him score some victories on his own bills, though he told The Journal he made no deals.

He was the lead sponsor on a bipartisan bill for stiffer punishment for drivers who get behind the wheel drunk with a child under the age of 13 in the vehicle. The penalty: up to a year in prison and a potential a fine of up to $1,000 for a first-offense and more for repeat offenders. Lawmakers also passed his bill to take away a judge’s discretion in sentencing repeat animal-abusers.

Among the signs that Flanders’ star was rising within the state GOP: a run of endorsements from 10 Republican town and city committees including those in Warwick, South Kingstown, Providence, Newport, Glocester, East Greenwich, Cumberland, Burrillville, Block Island and Smithfield. In his latest campaign update, Flanders also openly competed for the pro-gun rights wing within the state Republican Party.

A campaign update out this week showed him at a Newport Rifle Club annual picnic, with rifle in hand. The words that went with the picture: “Judge Flanders has always been a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment.”

The state GOP also endorsed Michael Riley for state treasurer, Pat Cortellessa for secretary of state and Sal Caiozzo for Rhode Island’s 2nd District Congressional seat.

There was no endorsement in the primary race for lieutenant governor between Karl Wadensten and Paul Pence because, GOP chairman Brandon Bell said, neither candidate got a majority of the vote.

The only flash of controversy: party activist Russ Hryzan tried — and failed — to win a paper-ballot vote instead of a voice vote on the Cortellessa endorsement, even though Cortellessa is the only Republican running for secretary of state against the Democratic incumbent, Nellie Gorbea. Hryzan cited the attention Cortellessa drew to himself following the death of Frank L. “Bobo” Marrapese Jr., long known as one of the most vicious enforcers for New England crime boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca.

As word of Marrapese’s death spread, Cortellessa called The Journal and said he wanted to offer a glimpse into the “human side of Frank.” Cortellessa had worked with Marrapese at Gallery nightclub on Richmond Street in the 1980s. Cortellessa recalled the capo as a “total gentleman.”

Hryzan suggested Cortellessa might not be “the best fit″ for the state party, but Democrat-turned-Republican developer Gerald Zarrella said: “This reminds me of what the Democrats do.”