Like a baseball team fielding its starting roster for the big game, the Republicans and Democrats of Cranston are forming their own teams for the 9 City Council seats available in Cranston this November.
There are three citywide Council seats on the ballot, and six people, made up of three Democrats and three Republicans, have declared their candidacy for those seats. The three Republicans are current Council President Michael Farina, incumbent Ken Hopkins, and newcomer Amy Ricci. The three Democrats for citywide Council are Councilman Steve Stycos, now the Ward 1 councilman and newcomers Sarah Lee and Gail Harvey. Farina has been endorsed by the Republican Party to maintain his position of Council President.
Michael Sepe, chair of the Cranston Democratic City Committee, said he thinks his party can take two of those citywide Council seats in the election, and added that he could end up with a possible 6-3 Council in favor of the Democrats, a turnaround from the 5-4 Republican majorities on the council now.
Sepe and his committee have endorsed all three Stycos, Lee, and Harvey, as well as four of the six Wards across the city – in Ward 5, Republican Chris Paplauskas is running unopposed.
In Ward 1, there will be a Democratic primary between Lammis Vargas, who ran for citywide Council two years ago, and Jeffrey Gale, currently a member of the school committee. Sepe said the party hasn’t made an endorsement, as the vote at the city committee meeting ended in a 4-4 tie, as one member was absent.
The Republican counter in Ward 1 is Christopher Sparks, who has been endorsed for the seat by the Cranston Republican City Committee, chaired by Chris Buonanno.
Buonanno couldn’t be reached for comment, but issued a statement last week endorsing all Cranston Republican candidates, which was easy to do since there won’t be any Republican primaries for any of the City Council seats.
“We are proud to announce our endorsement of these fine people for the office of City Council,” he said in the statement. “We fielded a diverse, dedicated and talented team focused on Cranston’s well-being, financial health, and business growth.”
In Ward 2, incumbent Democrat Paul McAuley and fellow Democrat Timothy Rioux Jr. will battle it out in a primary, with the winner automatically getting the seat, as there is no Republican running. Sepe said that the committee would endorse McAuley for the seat because he “doesn’t know who Rioux is” and Rioux “never came in front of the city committee.”
In Ward 3, Republican Derik Tutt and Democrat John Donegan, both who have never served on the Council before, will be the candidates.
In Ward 4, Republican Edward Brady, who took over Trent Colford’s spot on the Council in June, and Democrat Thomas Capalli will duke it out. Both have garnered endorsements from their respective parties.
Ward 5 is basically already won for incumbent Chris Paplauskas, who doesn’t face a Democrat or Republican counterpart for his seat.
Sepe was disappointed in his party’s inability to find a candidate for that ward.
“It’s discouraging that we didn’t have a Democratic candidate in Ward 5, I really feel terrible about that,” he said. “I represented that area for six years, it’s been a Democratic Ward for all of my life and my father’s. But it’s tough to go out and try to get someone to run if they don’t come forward, because they’re not going to put their heart and soul into it. I could have gone out and begged someone, but what’s the sense if they’re not going to do any work?”
The final ward is six, representing the Garden city area of the city, and features a faceoff between incumbent Council Vice President Michael Favicchio, a Republican, and Democrat Stephen Tranghese, a new candidate who Sepe said the Party did endorse.
Sepe said that the party is still formulating specific platforms to run on, and added that himself, Stycos, and current Councilman John Lanni are the leaders on that front and “should have it out by the end of July.”
In his statement, Buonanno said part of the Republican focus for the council seats will be on making sure the “left” doesn’t get a majority.
“These candidates are committed to combating the leftist, radical, progressive agenda that has taken the city’s Democratic Party hostage, and keeping the focus on representing the everyday taxpayer,” he said. “Make no mistake, these candidates are by far the most qualified, most representative, and quite simply the best candidates for the job of putting the people’s well-being and prosperity before anything else.”
Sepe said he was optimistic in this year’s crop of Cranston democrats.
“I look forward to a Democratic victory in November, to restoring balance to the City Council,” he said. “I believe we’re going to be very successful, we’ve got young candidates, they’re diverse.”
As for his role in the races, he said he’d be there to direct the campaigns, raise money for candidates, and “basically run the entire campaign.”