With official declarations for candidacy ending in July, former State Representative and Chaplain Robert “Bob” Lancia has thrown his hat into the ring as an independent for the Ward 6 …
With official declarations for candidacy ending in July, former State Representative and Chaplain Robert “Bob” Lancia has thrown his hat into the ring as an independent for the Ward 6 City Council seat vacated by Republican Matthew Reilly at the end of May.
With one Republican, one Democrat and one Independent candidate already in the race, submitting his candidacy as an Independent means that no primary elections will be required before the official voting for Reilly’s replacement takes place on October 5.
Lancia served as a State Representative as part of the Republican Party from 2015 to 2018 for District 16. He ran United States House of Representatives in the state’s second Congressional District in 2020 and was in the lead until write-in ballots were counted leading to the reelectio0n of Jim Langevin. In 2022 he announced he would be running for the office again, until he was asked to step aside by his party.
“I had done that in 2018 when I was going to run for Lieutenant Governor, but had stepped aside twice while playing the good soldier, or in my case the good sailor,” Lancia explained. “Ultimately, the candidate I stepped aside for did not win. However, having stepped aside several times and never really feeling supported by the party, I decided after this last election in 2022 that I was going to become an independent. Now my wife and I are both registered independents.”
In addition to a varied political career, Lancia has lived a long and interesting life as a Navy Chaplain and educator. Currently finishing his fifth degree at Providence College, a Master’s of Education with a focus in Urban Teaching of Social Studies, Lancia said that it was only as classes finished that he decided to run for the local Ward 6 Council seat.
“I’m a lifelong Cranstonian,” he said introducing himself. “I went to all Cranston public schools. My first degree is in elementary education from Rhode Island College. Then at 32 I went to seminary to get a Master’s in divinity. At the same time I joined the Navy Chaplaincy Candidates Program.”
Loving his experience in the program, and the travel around the country it brought, he decided at the age of 39 to “call up Washington” and ask to be put on active duty. So, in 1993 he boarded a ship and off he went.
“I did that for six months and then came home to find my captain volunteered us for a mission to do drug interdiction in the Caribbean, so we left immediately,” laughed Lancia as he joked about just how much his wife ‘loved’ the experience. “From there I got stationed at Newport for three years, which was nice to be in my home state at the Chapel of Hope. Then the Chief of Chaplains came in and said we need someone to go to Canada as the first exchange with the Canadian military.”
Recommended by his superior, Lancia was chosen in 1998 to move to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, as the first exchange chaplain. He spent two years in Halifax where he was invited to attend the first doctoral class at the Crystal Cathedral with Robert Schuller where he graduated live on the old “Hour of Power” television program having completed his thesis on the topic of PTSD and spirituality. Upon finally coming home he worked in public affairs until the world experienced one of the most dramatic events in decades.
“I watched the planes hit the towers,” recalling that he was in a public affairs office on base when the unforgettable tragedy happened. “The general said pack up everything you think we’re going to need. We’re going to war. Some of the first few service members killed were from my chapel.”
After a freak accident in 2002 that damaged his shoulder he ended up leaving the Navy in 2004. Lancia then came home and began teaching and acting as a pastor in his home state.
“Eventually I ran for office,” he recalled as he pieced his story together. “I lost a couple of times but then finally won in 2015 as a state rep for District 16 in Cranston. I did two terms and was the first Republican to win in 30 years and the first to win reelection in 30 years as well.”
Now, in 2023 after finishing his last classes of the semester he has decided to hop back in the political ring for a more local election. Lancia said he loves Cranston and hopes for a chance to stand up for residents of the city and their needs as well as the interests of Ward 6’s constituents.
“I grew up in Cranston. I’m a kid that used to walk to the Budlong Pool every single day when I was a kid. You know what the big thing was every year, being old enough, or brave enough, to jump off the high board at the pool in the deep end. That was a right of passage. To see that they’ve dilly dallied for four years and not done anything. I remember Allan Fung’s big thing every year was jumping into that big pool in a suit. That always cracked me up. I’m with the group that wants to maintain that pool.”
Lancia said that he doesn’t have a problem with other facilities, even mentioning that he thinks it was great to open the new splash pad at Park Bain recently. He said before his recent knee surgery he was walking every day and saw the process of putting in the splash pad come together, and thought it was a good idea.
Despite how well that project turned out, he still feels that it’s important to maintain the pool at its current size and keep a piece of Cranston’s history in tact.
“It’s a great resource,” he reiterated of the splash pad. “Build another splash pad. Build anything you want to build, but let’s save the pool. I noticed that the Republican in the race, Melillo, is in agreement with the Mayor that we should not keep it as it is currently. I have a problem with that. I also saw that City-wide Councilwoman Renzulli had said during one of the meetings that it is the Mayor’s decision of what to do with the pool, not the City Council’s and not the citizen’s. I have a problem with that.”
It’s always about the taxpayers and the Council members as representatives of the people, said Lancia of how he believes it should be when it comes to issues like this. He also mentioned, that much like himself, Councilman Robert Ferri left the Republican Party because he did not like being forced to vote a certain way. Lancia said that as he sees it the Republican Party has a way of “brow beating” members to always vote a certain way or agree with the mayor. He hopes that running as an independent will allow him to stand firm on issues and vote flexibly instead of being pushed toward voting for a specific party’s agenda.
When asked how he felt about the fact that a new study provided by the administration, that opposes the study done to year’s ago that said the pool can be repaired at it’s current dimensions, said that the pool can not be fixed and has to be rebuilt Lancia said that he doesn’t have any comment as he hasn’t had a chance to review the study.
“I just know what I think is the right thing to do,” he said. “There’s no way that this city should have that pool closed for four years, especially with the increasingly hot summers that we’ve had. I look at Providence, with the kids at risk and everything, and I see all the splash pads they have, I see all the pools they have that are beautiful and open. We’re the second largest city right now and one of the best cities and we can’t open a pool? C’mon.”
When it comes to government, Lancia’s experience on a state level gives him a unique perspective on issues. While talking about Cranston, he also mentioned some state-wide issues that affect things even on city levels.
“Affordable housing is a state-wide issue,” Lancia said. “I see that the Governor has been allocating more money for that. That’s what we need to do. This goes to tax rates. It goes to a $14 billion state budget”
Lancia said in his experience about 80 to 90% of a city’s budget goes to education. When he was in position as a state representative the state government only spent about $2 billion on education across the state. Personally, he would like to see the US Department of Education shut down, along with its $70-$80 billion budget, and divide their funds among the states. He said he believes that it will lower tax rates while also opening up new opportunities throughout the states to support kids and education.
Education wasn’t the only issue, state or city-wide that has shown itself to be of interest to Lancia. When asked what issues that Cranston is facing would receive his attention should he win the Council Seat, he referred to the gun range in the Western part of the city.
“I think we need to relocate that,” he said of a plan that would go directly against the position of the current administration. “I also think we can use our Federal delegation to get funds to build something state-of-the-art. Even other police departments were coming from all over to use that facility. So, let’s build something that’s worthy of our police forces and give them something that we can be proud of. We have an excellent police force and fire department. Let’s support them.”