Mayoral field taking shape

Longtime state lawmaker, City Council members, others mulling bid for city's top office in 2020

The Cranston Herald ·

Ballots won’t be cast for the better part of two years, but maneuvering has begun in the race to succeed Allan Fung as Cranston’s mayor.

Numerous candidates say they are considering a bid to become the city’s chief executive, a post Fung has held since 2009. And with the office set to be open for the first time in more than a decade, the field has the potential to be crowded on both the Democratic and Republican sides.

House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Charlene Lima (D-Dist. 14, Cranston) made waves last week when she told WPRI that she is exploring a run for mayor. On Monday, she confirmed that a possible campaign is on her radar.

“It is a big decision, a lot of responsibility,” she said. “I would expect that by the fall…I’ll have made a decision.”

Of her rationale for eying the mayor’s office, Lima said, “I think we can make Cranston better…better utilization of our taxes, better development of our city.”

A retired educator, Lima has served in the General Assembly since 1993 and was named deputy speaker when fellow Cranston Democrat Nicholas Mattiello, who represents District 15, was elected House speaker in 2014.

Elsewhere on the Democratic side, City Councilman Steve Stycos – who topped the citywide field in the 2018 election after several terms representing Ward 1 – said he is also contemplating a mayoral bid.

“I am considering a run for mayor, but think it is very early. I was certainly appreciative of the vote I received in my first citywide run,” he said. “I haven’t decided yet. We just finished the last election.”

Democratic former mayor Michael Napolitano – who narrowly defeated Fung in the 2006 election vote before opting against a bid for a second term in 2008 – said another run for the city’s top office is among the possibilities he is exploring for 2020.

“I will leave you with this – yes, I will consider it,” he said of a possible mayoral campaign. “No decisions have been made at this time, and I’m weighing all my options. And there are other positions I may consider running for.”

Two other prominent Democrats appear less likely to join the mayoral field.

“You know you never say never, but at this time I believe we have some outstanding candidates,” said Michael Sepe, a former City Council member and Cranston Democratic City Committee chairman who challenged Fung unsuccessfully in 2016. “A lot of people like to put their names out there, but we will see toward the beginning of 2020 who the real players will be.”

“I am enjoying life not being a councilman and at this time would not even consider a run for office,” said Richard Santamaria, who served multiple terms on the council before departing in 2017.

On the Republican side, Council President Michael Farina, who joined the GOP in 2016 after twice being elected citywide as a Democrat, confirmed that he is actively planning a mayoral bid.

“My team and I are well beyond the consideration phase, forming committees or talking to residents,” he said in a statement. “We know what we need to do to make a successful run for mayor and most all the people we have spoken with are supportive of our run. We have started the process and we’re having lots of fun working towards the goal together. There are several milestones we need to hit as we work through our plan, but we have been on the path since last year. There will be more news to come as we look to make an official run for the office in early 2020.”

At the time he switched parties in 2016, Farina said the change would “affect the political landscape of Cranston immediately and for years to come.”

He also said at that time, “I plan on eventually running for mayor and leading this city on a higher level.”

Two other Republican councilmen – citywide representative Ken Hopkins and Ward 5’s Chris Paplauskas – confirmed they are also exploring the possibility of running for mayor, as did former councilman Jim Donahue.

“It’s early, as you know. My priority right now is supporting Mayor Fung…I think he’s done a great job,” Donahue said. “I also want to make sure that the city is in good hands when he’s finished.”

Barbara Ann Fenton, Fung’s wife, has also been frequently mentioned as a mayoral candidate and has not ruled out the possibility.

Fung, who has twice run for governor, was elected to two-year terms in 2008 and 2010 and to four-year terms in 2012 and 2016. Changes to the city’s charter that extended the length of the mayoral term also limited those holding the office to two consecutive terms, meaning Fung cannot run again in 2020.