By DANIEL KITTREDGE The Republican candidates for mayor shared their visions, sparred over their records and made their home-stretch pitch to voters during a livestreamed debate last week. During the hour-long event held at the Cranston Public Library's
The Republican candidates for mayor shared their visions, sparred over their records and made their home-stretch pitch to voters during a livestreamed debate last week.
During the hour-long event held at the Cranston Public Library’s Central Library, City Council President Michael Farina and Citywide Councilman Ken Hopkins each presented themselves as the best qualified to guide the city through the COVID-19 crisis and the financial challenges ahead.
Hopkins, reprising familiar campaign themes, pledged to be the “education mayor” and touted the endorsement he has received from outgoing Mayor Allan Fung.
“If you like the job that Allan Fung has done, then I am your choice to be the next mayor,” Hopkins said. “He had a choice. Mayor Fung picked me, not my opponent.”
Farina, meanwhile, touted his experience in business and government as setting him apart. In a clear reference to Fung, he added: “No one person picks the next mayor. The people pick the next mayor.”
“I’m the only candidate in this race with the real skills needed to lead Cranston from day one … I have a proven track record of driving savings, cutting costs, eliminating red tape,” Farina said.
There were some points of agreement between the candidates. Both expressed skepticism over the reopening of schools for in-person classes, with Hopkins saying he would be “very hesitant” given the physical limitations of many school buildings.
Farina said: “My take on this is, I don’t think our buildings are suitable for them to go back to school at this point.”
Their sparring continued elsewhere, however. Each claimed credit for stopping a planned Cumberland Farms development in Edgewood. Hopkins claimed he has been pressured to the point that his opposition to the project endangered his political career. Farina said he withdrew the project from consideration despite the financial support he has received from the attorney for its applicant.
They also traded barbs over how the other has responded to the proposed Costco development at the Mulligan’s Island property.
“I’m not opposed to development at the site, but I’m opposed to this development at the site,” Farina said. Adding a clear jab at his opponent, Farina said he takes time to review development proposals before making any “knee-jerk reactions.”
Hopkins responded: “I did my homework. I knew exactly what was coming in … The neighbors in that neighborhood know the truth. They know that I was there first for them, that I led the charge.”
Hopkins, a former teacher and athletic director, sought early on to claim education as his terrain.
“I’ve lived on that side of the fence. I know what the schools need, and I’m going to bring that to the mayor’s office,” he said.
Farina, an executive with CVS, said fighting for school funding during his time on the council is among the accomplishments of which he’s proudest. He pledged to continue that support if elected.
Toward the end of the debate, the candidates were asked if there is something they admire about their opponent.
“Ken is a really nice guy. I’m always amazed at how many people like him,” Farina said.
“I admire the fact that he’s doing public service. That’s not an easy thing in this day and age,” Hopkins said. “And I’ve notice how he handles his children. I think he’s a great dad.”
In their closing statements, however, each offered pointed critiques of the other that doubled as a summation of the case for their own candidacy.
At the heart of Farina’s final pitch: “When my opponent was asked how he would manage the city coming out of COVID, his continued response was, ‘Be like Fung.’ No policy, no procedure, no management ability … This is election is the most important one in Cranston’s history. How we react coming out of this pandemic, and how we react to the current financial crisis, will shape Cranston for years to come.”
Hopkins said in his closing: “My opponent thinks he knows everything and will plow ahead regardless of the consequences … My opponent will seek confrontation, to bully his way through things. We need a mayor who has the moral and ethical character to do what is right.”
Last week’s debate was co-sponsored by the Cranston Herald and the Cranston Public Library. It can be viewed on the Herald and library Facebook pages, as well as the library’s YouTube channel.
The three Democratic candidates for mayor – Councilman Steve Stycos, Maria Bucci and Adam Carbone – were set to meet for their own livestreamed debate starting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 26.