Metro, News

Giovanni Feroce joins Rhode Island gubernatorial race candidates

Feroce joins fellow Republicans Morgan, Fung, independent Trillo to challenge Raimondo

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Giovanni Feroce says he aims to bring young professionals to Rhode Island, citing the quality of life and proximity to Boston as benefits of the area.

Last Friday, Giovanni Feroce filed papers with the Rhode Island Board of Elections to run as a Republican in the state gubernatorial race, joining candidates R.I. House Minority leader Patricia Morgan, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, former representative Joe Trillo and Democratic incumbent Gina Raimondo.

Morgan was the first Republican to announce her candidacy in October. Fung announced his candidacy one day later, and former Republican Joe Trillo announced in December he would run as an independent, WPRI reported.

“I have a vision that requires hubris, frankly,” Feroce said. Feroce would prioritize education, jobs and retirement planning, he said. “My vision for Rhode Island is one that plugs into the state of Massachusetts and primarily focuses on Boston as the center of gravity,” he said. He compared Providence’s relationship to Boston to Stamford, Connecticut, feeding into New York; younger people in particular should see the distance between Providence and Boston as being  “a 45-minute commute or a 50-minute commute,” he added. In addition, Feroce imagines residents of Connecticut and Massachusetts moving to R.I. for the quality of life. “It’s a better living environment, it’s a better community to ultimately raise a family or plug into additional educational institutions,” Feroce said.

Feroce feels qualified as a candidate by his experience participating in “strategic planning … in the military, in business, in politics,” he said. Feroce served as a military officer, was a state senator for Rhode Island for two years and served as the CEO of the jewelry company Alex and Ani between 2010 and 2014, the Providence Journal previously reported. Since then, Feroce has headed multiple enterprises, most notably Benrus, a military watch company.

In September 2017, Feroce was banned from running Benrus when he could not pay the trademark owner the agreed amount, after being sued by creditors including the Internal Revenue Service, according to the Providence Journal.

“Statistically, you’re always going to (have) some things that don’t go your way — you’re going to have some things (go) perfectly and some things that you’ve got to take a little bit more time to see mature into a success story,” he said. “So I certainly don’t look at anything I’ve done in a negative way in any way,” he added.

As of the last fiscal quarter of the 2017 fiscal year, Raimondo has raised $3,349,632, around 14 times Fung’s balance of $240,572.83. Trillo’s balance stands at $126,858.58, while Morgan has raised $117,330.97. Feroce began fundraising in the first fiscal quarter of the 2018 fiscal year; his balance is not currently publically available because the funds raised in the ongoing fiscal year are not public for any candidates.

All the Republican guberanorial candidates have political experience. And while Feroce stressed that his business experience sets him apart as a candidate, Morgan cited her credentials in politics as a defining asset to her campaign.

Morgan is running because her eight years of experience in the R.I. House of Representatives and five years on the finance committee have informed her understanding of “what needs to happen” to improve the economy and citizens’ lives as governor, she said.

Morgan values prioritizing the issues of  corruption, education and jobs. She sees “soft corruption” in the existence and advantages of “insiders, people with access” and described the Pawtucket Red Sox stadium project as a job controlled by business insiders. “They had access to state leaders and decided they wanted some of our tax dollars,” she said.

“I don’t think it’s fair to … ask folks to be the wallet,” she added.

In terms of education, Morgan, a former teacher, wants to “set teachers free” by giving them flexibility to better cater to individual students’ needs and also providing them with more resources, including textbooks and teacher manuals.

In his 16 years in government, Trillo noted every day “what a disaster our state was turning into,” he said. He is running as an independent because of internal divisions within both parties, and feels confident in his ability to collaborate with Democrats and Republicans, he said. He hopes to make jobs a priority and to bring Rhode Island up from the “bottom of the ratings” for business, he added.

Trillo plans on funding the majority of his campaign himself, he said. He will not be seeking funding from “political action groups, special interests, NRA, nothing that corrupts government” because “the more money they give you, the more (concessions) they expect,” he added.

In a television ad announcing his bid for governor, Fung said he hoped to focus on job creation and improving infrastructure, the Providence Journal reported.

Last week, Morgan criticized Allan Fung for not initially commenting on gun control and for consistently failing to clarify his policy views since his 2014 run for governor, according to the Providence Journal. “In four years he has been absent when there has been a need for any opinion on his part; school shooting is just the latest, but it’s not the first,” she said.

Ethan Shire ’19, president of Brown Republicans, said the the group hasn’t “made a formal endorsement yet.” However, the Republicans “have a longstanding relationship with Mayor Fung.” Brown Republicans supported Fung’s 2014 campaign for governor, added Shire, who is also a Herald columnist.

Looking beyond the primary to the general election, statewide elections in Rhode Island “see a lot of arguing between the 40-yard lines, where you kind of have a really more liberal-leaning Republican and a more conservative Democrat, … and I think that’s kind of what we’re going to see probably in this gubernatorial election,” Shire added.

Mayor Fung did not respond to request for comment.