Republican Mayor Allan Fung was the city’s first mayor to go unopposed, but in a presidential election year, that wasn’t enough to elect his slate of candidates. The Republicans lost a seat on the Council in citywide Jim Donahue, bringing the tide back to a 7-2 Democrat majority.
“The mayor didn’t have any coattails,” said Democratic City Committee Chairman Michael Sepe. “The people of Cranston spoke loud and clear. It was a great victory for the Democrats.”
Fung admitted that it was a disappointing night, but said he was not surprised given the high voter turnout in favor of President Obama from Rhode Islanders.
“The presidential year draws a lot of people. It’s very difficult for people who are part of the Republican label,” he said. “It’s definitely disappointing.”
Still, Fung said he looks forward to working with all of the new members of the Council.
The new faces in Council chambers are Ward 2 Councilman-elect Don Botts and returning Councilman Mario Aceto in Ward 4, as well as citywide candidates Michael Farina, former Council President John Lanni and Sarah Kales Lee.
With high voter turnout, Democrats swept to pick up the three citywide seats. Farina dominated the race with 15,018 votes – a more than 2,600-vote difference between him and the next highest vote getter. Lanni, who left office in 2010, took in 12,380 votes and Lee another 11,356 – putting Donahue in fourth place with 10,070 and fellow incumbent Republican Leslie Luciano in fifth with just 9,224 votes.
In the Ward races, Democrat incumbents Steve Stycos and Paul Archetto held on to their positions in Wards 1 and 3 with 75 and 69 percent, defeating Michael Glucksman and Nicholas Lima, respectively. Archetto will be the elder statesmen on the Council come January, but he isn’t ready to make a play for Council president just yet. His priority, he said, is having a cohesive vision for the city.
“The last two years, it was a divided Council and I don’t want to see that,” he said.
Archetto was clearly pleased with the showing of his colleagues on the Democratic ticket.
“We all worked hard as a team and President Obama helped us,” he said, giving credit to Sepe for organizing the candidates. “It’s great for Cranston because we now have checks and balances, which is important.”
Councilman Emilio Navarro announced in July that he would not be seeking reelection, prompting a three-way race between Republican Don Botts and Independents Diana Gordon and Joe Rhodes, who garnered the support of the local Democratic Party. Gordon had fared well in 2010, picking up 41 percent in a primary against Navarro, despite a lack of campaign resources. Armed with a better understanding of the process this time around, Gordon earned 27 percent in the race, not far behind Rhodes’ 33 percent. Botts, a former candidate for State Representative, came out on top with 40 percent.
Botts accepted congratulations from Republican headquarters in Garden City Tuesday night, and despite the disheartened mood overall, Botts’ victory seemed a bright spot for the party.
“I’m pleased the people of Ward 2 put their support behind me. It’s humbling and it’s an honor,” Botts said.
He says the first order of business is getting to know his new colleagues on the Council and formulating a plan for how they can work together to “put Cranston first.”
Mario Aceto, a former councilman, took the open seat with 55 percent in Ward 4. Former Councilman Robert Pelletier, who this time embarked on an unsuccessful bid for citywide office, resigned from his post over residency issues in February and was replaced by Democrat appointee Maria Bucci, who opted not to pursue the seat for the next two years.
Ward 5 was particularly close, as Chris Paplauskas put up a tough fight against six-year incumbent Richard Santamaria. As a first-time candidate, Paplauskas earned more than 45 percent, and Santamaria credited his opponent with running a strong campaign, covering the area with signs.
“Kudos to Chris, who ran a hard campaign and kept it positive. He has a future in the Republican Party, I think,” Santamaria said.
At the after-party at 39 West, Santamaria described his mood as “happy, happy, happy.”
In Ward 6, incumbent Republican Michael Favicchio staved off a challenge from Democrat Stacey DiCola, a first-time candidate who still posted nearly 47 percent - a mere 295 votes behind the incumbent.
For the seven-seat School Committee, three wards were decided before Tuesday, and only two faces will change come January. Paula McFarland was unopposed in Ward 3, Michael Traficante had no citywide challenger and Trent Colford Sr. begins his first term in Ward 4 despite never having to campaign.
For the remaining School Committee seats, none of the candidates supported by Mayor Fung were successful in their bids for the non-partisan seats, including incumbent Steven Bloom in Ward 1, whom was credited with creating a five-year outlook for the district’s budget. Bloom lost to Jeffrey Gale’s 61 percent in the duo’s second match up in as many election cycles.
In Wards 2, 5 and 6, incumbents Andrea Iannazzi, Janice Ruggieri and Andrea Iannazzi will stay put. Culhane defeated Elana Carello-Rabiner with 66 percent; Ruggieri defeated Joseph Agresti with 59 percent and Iannazzi defeated Jay Rosenfield with 58 percent.
Culhane says she has learned a lot through this election cycle, and plans to bring that experience with her through the next term, particularly when it comes to the constituents’ views on reinstating programs and making them sustainable.
Iannazzi too said it was an exciting night for the School Committee, and believes that the losses by those supported by the mayor prove that the voters want an “independent, non-partisan” body.
“I think that the taxpayers have spoken and they’re cognizant of the great work that the Cranston School Committee has done,” she said.
Perhaps the most watched race in Cranston, however, came in State Senate District 26, a seat vacated by longtime legislator Bea Lanzi. Lanzi and the Democrats put their support behind School Committee member Frank Lombardi, whose campaign promised “answers over acrimony” to Republican Sean Gately’s aggressive campaign that accused Lombardi of being a political insider and “more of the same.”
That negative campaign is what Lombardi believes gave him the edge, as he posted a victorious 63 percent.
“I feel great. I feel vindicated. I think the people of Cranston’s District 26 realized that negative campaigning isn’t what it’s about,” he said. “I think the people just said no to negativity.”
Looking at the two years to come, Lombardi, who will join his brother John Lombardi at the State House, pledged to be an accessible and transparent leader.
“I’m going to be a Senator who’s accessible to his people. I want to listen to what they have to say,” he said.
In the remaining Senate races, Dist. 27 and 28, incumbents held tight. Democrat Hanna Gallo faced a formidable opponent in Independent Aram Garabedian, as well as Republican Robert Lancia, but the seven-term legislator survived the challenge with 46 percent. Democrat colleague Senator Josh Miller won handily with 69 percent, against Republican Robert Clarkin who was not active with election efforts from the local party.
On the House side, it was a year for incumbents, both prior to Election night and again this Tuesday. Rep. Charlene Lima, Rep. Peter Palumbo, Rep. Joseph McNamara and Rep. Stephen Ucci were unopposed for the November election in Districts 14, 16, 19 and 42.
House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello had a comfortable 58 percent showing in Dist. 15 against challenger Bobby Bach, a former Council contender and Cranston business owner. Democrat Rep. Robert Jacquard, who was first elected in 1992, fared even better, defeating Republican Charles Hooper with 70 percent of the vote. In Dist. 18, Democrat Art Handy - a five-term incumbent - dominated with 63 percent, the remaining votes being split between Republican Don Gendron (20 percent) and Mark Stoutzenberger (17 percent). Another three-way race faced Dist. 41 in Cranston and Scituate. In 2010, Democrat Rep. Michael Marcello narrowly defeated Republican Mark Lucci, who posted 47 percent in his first campaign. Marcello did it again this time, taking roughly 55 percent to Lucci’s 38 percent. The third candidate, Independent Lee Grossguth, earned the remaining 7 percent.
In the statewide offices, Democrats Sheldon Whitehouse and Jim Langevin were reelected for Senate and Congress, respectively.