By DANIEL KITTREDGE The three-day window for candidates to formally declare their plans to seek local and state elected offices arrived this week, and the contours of the contests ahead have come into far sharper focus. The candidate declaration did not
The three-day window for candidates to formally declare their plans to seek local and state elected offices arrived this week, and the contours of the contests ahead have come into far sharper focus.
The candidate declaration did not formally close until Wednesday afternoon, well after the Herald’s deadline the previous day. But as of early Tuesday afternoon, a number of hopefuls had already signed the needed paperwork at City Hall.
The contest to succeed Republican Allan Fung as mayor will be one of the most closely watched races in Rhode Island this year, and a pair of primary races are in store.
On the GOP side, Council President Michael Farina and Citywide Councilman Ken Hopkins will vie for their party’s nomination.
On the Democratic side, Maria Bucci, a former Ward 4 councilwoman, and Adam Carbone – a political newcomer who previously told the Herald plans an unorthodox campaign aimed at creating a new “Bagel & Cream Cheese Party” – had both filed paperwork as of Tuesday afternoon. Citywide Councilman Steve Stycos has also announced his candidacy for mayor and has been actively campaigning.
With all three citywide council members running for mayor, this year’s citywide race will be completely open. As of early Tuesday afternoon, four Democrats – Paul Archetto, Jessica Marino, Larry Warner and Dylan Zelazo – had filed candidacy forms, setting up a primary contest. On the Republican side, Robert Ferri and Nicole Renzulli had filed paperwork as of early Tuesday afternoon. An independent candidate, Alphonse R. Cardi, has also declared his candidacy.
In Ward 1, incumbent Democratic Councilwoman Lammis Vargas will seek a new term, while Republican Christopher Maxwell is poised to challenge her. In Ward 2, Democrat Aniece Germain and Republican Zachary Sailer have filed to seek the seat being vacated by Democrat Paul McAuley.
Contests are also shaping up in Ward 3, where Democratic Councilman John Donegan faces a challenge from Republican Jay Bombardier, and Ward 6, where Democrat Paul Bucci and Republican Matthew Reilly have filed to succeed term-limited Republican Michael Favicchio.
Ward 4 Councilman Ed Brady and Ward 5 Councilman Chris Paplauskas, both Republicans, have filed candidacy paperwork and had no challenges as of early Tuesday afternoon.
No contests had emerged for seats on the School Committee as of early Tuesday afternoon, with six incumbents – citywide representative Michael Traficante, Sara K. Tindall-Woodman of Ward 1, Kristen E. Haroian of Ward 2, Vincent Turchetta of Ward 4, David Alden-Sears of Ward 5 and Chairman Daniel Wall of Ward 6 – having filed paperwork and not yet having any declared opponents. In Ward 3, Domenic Fusco, a former committee member, has filed to regain the seat currently held by Archetto, who is seeking a return to the council.
On the General Assembly side, another closely watched race will take place in House of Representatives District 15, where Democratic Speaker Nicholas Mattiello faces a challenge from Republican Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, the mayor’s wife. Both have filed candidacy paperwork.
The only other House race with Cranston ties to emerge as of Tuesday afternoon was in District 19, where Democrat Stuart Wilson has filed to mount a primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Joseph McNamara.
Dist. 14 Rep. Charlene Lima, Dist. 16 Rep. Christopher T. Millea, Dist. 17 Rep. Robert B. Jacquard, Dist. 20 Rep. David A. Bennett and Dist. 42 Rep. Stephen R. Ucci had all filed to seek reelection without any declared opponents as of early Tuesday afternoon.
For state Senate, Democratic District 26 incumbent Frank Lombardi has filed to seek a new term and faces a challenge from Republican Anthony Fagundes. Democratic Dist. 27 Sen. Hanna Gallo faces a challenge from Republican Pat Cortellessa as she seeks reelection, while Dist. 28 Sen. Joshua Miller, a Democrat, faces a challenge from independent Robert A. Schattle.
In District 31, where Democratic incumbent Erin Lynch Prata has decided not to seek reelection as she seeks an appointment to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, several candidates have emerged. Democrats Kendra Anderson, Brian Dunckley and Steve Merolla, president of the Warwick City Council, have all filed candidacy papers, as has Republican Scott M. Zambarano.
Party endorsements are due to the secretary of state’s office by June 25, and nomination papers – requiring anywhere from 50 to 200 signatures – will become available to candidates on June 30. They are due by July 10, with the ballot placement lottery for the primary and general election scheduled for July 17.
The primary election is currently scheduled for Tuesday, Sept, 8, with the general election to be held Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Vargas announces reelection bid, endorses Zelazo
Lammis Vargas, who is in her first term representing Ward 1 on the City Council, announced last week that she will seek reelection this fall.
“Two years ago, I ran to be a strong, new voice for our community, and I am proud to have delivered on that promise, but more work is left to be done,” Vargas said in a statement. “The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have been a horrific reminder that racism pervades our criminal justice system and I will fight for comprehensive reforms to our city’s criminal justice system and strong measures to limit gun violence.”
Vargas, 38, is employed as director of unclaimed property in the office of Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. She and her husband, Christian, have two children.
Vargas’ statement points to a number of accomplishments during her first term on the council, including pushing for greater diversity among the city’s boards, commissions and public safety personnel; working to address vacant and abandoned properties through a nuisance task force; organizing the city’s first Pride Month flag-raising celebration; and advocating for action on issues such as neighborhood speeding, plastic pollution reduction and gun safety.
The statement also touts Vargas’ support for the Cranston Public Schools facilities improvement bond and the city’s renewable energy bond, which will both go before voters this fall.
Vargas’ statement includes words of support from state Sen. Joshua Miller, who said: “From supporting efforts to ban assault weapons, high capacity magazines and ghost guns to supporting a ban on plastic bags, Councilwoman Vargas has been a strong voice for progressive issues at City Hall.”
In a statement Monday, Vargas additionally announced her endorsement of citywide council candidate Dylan Zelazo.
“With the numerous challenges of today, we need a new generation of leaders to bring Cranston forward for all its residents,” Vargas said. “Dylan Zelazo is a proven leader and will be a great new voice for Cranston. I’ve worked directly with Dylan and I know he has what it takes to be an ideal City Councilor. I am proud to support Dylan and ask every Cranston voter to consider voting for him. Our city will be stronger with his leadership on the Council.”
“I am grateful for Councilwoman Vargas's support,” Zelazo said. “Lammis is a strong advocate for Ward 1 and Cranston. I am proud to have her endorsement. Councilwoman Vargas knows that improving our quality of life must be the top priority of every City Councilor. Together, I know we can help support progress for Cranston’s schools, business community, and infrastructure.”
Sailer announces Ward 2 bid
Republican Zac Sailer, a 23-year-old graduate of Cranston High School East and the University of Rhode Island, has announced he will seek the Ward 2 seat on the City Council in this year’s election.
“Cranston is a city that holds a special place in my heart. I’ve walked the streets, attended the schools, and participated in the various sports leagues both as a player and as a coach … I believe that my experiences as a lifelong Cranston resident have set me up for this opportunity,” Sailer said in a statement on Facebook.
He continued: “Councilman McAuley has shown that he can work as a bi-partisan member of the council, building bridges between parties and keeping the best interest of his constituents in mind by voting for common sense policies – a value I hold near and dear to my heart and aspire to carry on that legacy.”
According to a biography on his campaign site, Sailer is currently working at Citizens Bank in North Providence while pursuing a master’s degree in education from Providence College. He was a volunteer coach for the girls basketball team at Cranston East from 2014-17 and the coach of the junior varsity baseball team from the school that went to the state final four in 2017.
The biography says Sailer’s goals include “bringing our classrooms up to 21st century capabilities, keeping Cranston open for the development of small businesses, and … spending tax-payer dollars in the most efficient and effective ways possible.”
Alden-Sears to seek reelection to School Committee
David Alden-Sears, who was appointed to fill the Ward 5 School Committee seat following Janice Ruggieri’s resignation late last year, has announced he will seek a full term in the seat this fall.
Alden-Sears, 23, is a 2014 graduate of Cranston High School West. He served as president of the Student Government at the Community College of Rhode Island and is currently studying at Rhode Island College. He has also worked on legislative affairs in the governor’s office.
“As the grandson of Janice Pilibosian, a Cranston Public School teacher for decades, I take students’ and teachers’ rights very seriously, and I have been committed to fighting for warm, safe, dry schools that serve as beacons of academic excellence in Rhode Island,” Alden-Sears said in a statement. “From speaking before the School Committee regarding the condition of classrooms and outdated textbooks at just 14 years old, to being a young voice against the proposed Mayoral Academy in 2011, I have been an advocate and friend to Cranston students and educators for almost a decade.”