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From True to Pants on Fire: Our guide to Tuesday's primary election

Tim Murphy
By Tim Murphy September 7, 2014

Over the past few months, PolitiFact Rhode Island has been busy fact-checking the many claims and counterclaims that have been made in the 2014 primary races. Not surprisingly, we found many to be untrue.

We checked statements made by candidates for many different offices, but spent most of our time on the highest profile races -- the Democratic and Republican primaries for governor.

In the end, when the last TV attack ad has aired, the last campaign mailer has arrived in the mailbox, the last robocall has landed in your voicemail, you -- the Rhode Island voter -- will have to decide who the best candidates are.

As you make your choices, you can see all our rulings on our website,, which is searchable by candidate name, office sought, and subjects, such as "taxes," or "jobs."

Here are summaries of our rulings in the governor’s races.

Ken Block: We’ve checked eight claims by Republican Block, dating from his first race for governor, in 2010, as the leader of the Moderate Party. His scorecard: True: 1. Mostly True: 3. Half True: 1. False: 3.

Most recently, we ruled Mostly True on Block’s claim that his opponent in the Republican primary, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, once donated to Democrats, including U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline and former House Speaker Gordon Fox.

We ruled False on Block’s claim that some Cranston residents would see as much as a $200 increase in "the garbage tax." We found that there is no separate "garbage tax" in the city, and only a small number of residents would incur any extra charges in the city’s new garbage collection plan.

Allan Fung: The Cranston mayor has faced the Truth-O-Meter six times since he announced his run for governor. His scorecard: True: 1. Mostly True: 2. Mostly False: 1. False: 1. Pants on Fire: 1.

We ruled True on his claim that, in 2009, Block had been fined and "had to admit that he funneled money illegally to the Moderate Party.

And most recently, we ruled Fung’s claim that the Block campaign had used "Nazi imagery" to describe Fung supporters False. We found that the "Nazi imagery" was from a Facebook posting -- later removed -- from one Block supporter, not his campaign.

Clay Pell: We’ve checked three claims by Pell -- a newcomer and grandson of the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell -- who shook up the political establishment when he announced his candidacy for governor as a Democrat. His scorecard: Mostly True: 2. Half True: 1.

Our most recent ruling was Mostly True. It dealt with his claim that his campaign "has created more jobs in the state of Rhode Island than Narragansett Beer," a jab at a TV ad from one of his Democratic primary opponents, Gina Raimondo.

The Raimondo ad touted jobs created at several companies that received financing from Point Judith Capital, the Venture Capital firm she founded. Among the firms is Narragansett Beer, which has nine full-time employees in Rhode Island. Pell’s campaign provided a list of 40 full-time jobs.

We ruled Half True on Pell’s claim that "Rhode Island has the highest dropout rate in New England, at 23 percent." We found that the state did have the highest dropout rate in New England, but the rate was actually 11.9 percent, not 23 percent.

Gina Raimondo: We’ve checked 10 claims made by Raimondo, dating back to her 2010 run for general treasurer. Her scorecard: True: 4. Mostly True: 3. Half True: 1. False: 1. Pants on Fire: 1.

Most recently, we ruled Mostly True on her claim that the Providence pension fund "is only 30 percent funded, about the same level as when [Mayor Angel Taveras, a primary opponent] took office."

Taveras negotiated concessions with the city’s unions to stabilize the plan and improve its funding over time. But the most recent records show its funding ratio was 31.39 percent -- about what it was when Taveras took office.

We ruled Pants on Fire on Raimondo’s claim that residential property taxes under Taveras "are up nearly 27 percent."

We found that the tax rate had increased by nearly 27 percent under Taveras, but that was due to a revaluation.The actual tax increases were much lower. Some homeowners whose property values skyrocketed saw big increases; others whose value fell saw smaller increases.

The average homeowner increase on individual tax bills was 4.8 percent.

Angel Taveras: We’ve checked six statements made by the Providence mayor. His scorecard: Mostly True: 2. Half True: 2. Mostly False: 1. False: 1.

Most recently, we ruled Half True on Taveras’s claim that "the crime rate has actually gone down in [Providence} and  … the number of shootings has been going down."

We found that the overall crime rate had ticked up the year before Taveras took office and during the first year of his tenure, but declined by a few percentage points in the last two years.

Similarly, the number of shooting victims jumped in the first year Taveras was in office but has fallen since. Ultimately, by 2013 there were 10 more shootings than the year before he became mayor. And the count as of July 12 --  the date of Taveras' statement -- was not lower than the same time last year; it was identical.

We ruled Mostly True on Taveras’ claim that "Providence graduation rates are up." In fact, graduation rates have risen nearly 6 percentage points since Taveras took office.

Did he have a role in the increase, as the ad implies? We found that he had taken some steps to boost graduation rates, but he’s been in office only three and a half years -- a caveat not mentioned in the ad in which he made his claim.

We’re taking a short breather until Tuesday’s primary results are known. But the very next day, we’ll be looking for claims made by the surviving candidates or claims by others that might affect the races in November.

If you see or hear a claim that makes you ask "Is that really true?" send it to us at [email protected]. And follow us on Twitter: @politifactri.

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From True to Pants on Fire: Our guide to Tuesday's primary election