The Republican gubernatorial candidates landed big, last-minute endorsements Tuesday, one from the GOP's 2010 nominee for the office and the other from 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Businessman Ken Block was endorsed by John Robitaille, who finished second in the gubernatorial race four years ago. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung was endorsed by Romney, who is also a former governor of Massachusetts.
Block and Fung are scheduled to debate Tuesday night at the Providence Performing Arts Center. The primary is Sept. 9.
Fung has accused Block of costing the GOP the 2010 gubernatorial election by siphoning votes from Robitaille. Block was the Moderate Party's candidate.
Robitaille said at a news conference at the Statehouse that he doesn't hold Block responsible. Then-independent Lincoln Chafee won 36 percent of the vote to Robitaille's nearly 34 percent. Democrat Frank Caprio got 23 percent, while Block got 6.5 percent. Robitaille said he entered the race late, didn't have enough money and didn't get enough votes.
Robert Coupe, a spokesman for Fung, said Robitaille is entitled to his opinion, but many Republicans blame Block.
Robitaille said Block has shown leadership, determination and a willingness to work hard, qualities needed in the next governor. Robitaille also said Block has done things he thought were impossible, including leading a successful effort to eliminate the straight-ticket voting option on Rhode Island ballots. He said he may disagree with Block on some social issues, but they are both fiscal conservatives.
Block said he couldn't ask for a better endorsement because, unlike Romney, Robitaille knows Rhode Island well. Block supported President Barack Obama over Romney in the 2012 election.
Romney touted Fung for leading financial reforms and job creation in Cranston. He said Fung is a proven leader who will "challenge the special interests and shake up the status quo."