Mayoral primary already turning nasty

Posted 1/31/24

With a Republican mayoral primary now inevitable, battle lines have been drawn between the camps of incumbent Mayor Kenneth Hopkins and challenger State Representative Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung.

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Mayoral primary already turning nasty


With a Republican mayoral primary now inevitable, battle lines have been drawn between the camps of incumbent Mayor Kenneth Hopkins and challenger State Representative Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung.

Hopkins’ reelection campaign released a statement Sunday, January 28 announcing that his campaign is endorsed by all three Republican members of the Cranston City Council: Councilors Nicole Renzulli, Richard D. Campopiano, and Christopher G. Paplauskas; four members of the Cranston School Committee: Committee Chair and former mayor Michael A. Traficante, Frank J. Ritz Jr., Earl J. “Buddy” Croft III, and Anthony Melillo; and the new chair of Cranston Republican City Committee, John Colasante. Several members of this cohort wrote in further detail of Hopkins’ successes as they saw them. 

Renzulli cited Hopkins effective leadership through the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopkins assumed office as mayor on January 5, 2020, less than three months before lockdown began. Campopiano wrote of Hopkins’ support of small businesses. Paplauskas wrote of the mayor’s support of his vision for Itri Park in Knightsville.

Traficante cited Hopkins’ strong support of Cranston schools during his tenure, as well as his experience and temperament.

In the same release, the three city councilmembers and four school committee members co-signed a letter to Fenton-Fung, asking her to reconsider her candidacy for mayor. They wrote “a contentious primary battle will hurt the other Republicans on the ballot.”

The release seems to paint leadership in Republican Cranston as a bloc, however, signs of a schism growing within the party are already appearing.

On January 17, then chair of Cranston Republicans Thomas Trudell sent out a press release which read: “Leading the Cranston Republican Party through a tumultuous time has been an honor. With Mayor Hopkins deciding to run for re-election, I have decided to resign my position as Chairman effective immediately. I will be staying active in the City Committee.”

Trudell later retracted the release, though his resignation was finalized. While Colasante did not sign the letter to Fenton-Fung, he did affirm his endorsement of the mayor. However, he said a quorum had not been reached as of January 22 and that he could not speak on behalf of the Cranston Republicans City Committee. 

Following the mayor’s release, Fenton-Fung sent out a short response sharply criticizing the mayor and his tactics.

Fenton-Fung writes that Hopkins’ leadership has resulted in humiliation for Cranston Republicans. She claims that Mayor Hopkins drove Councilman Robert Ferri’s party switch from Republican to Democrat in 2022 after what she calls a “petty fight” between the two.

She further cited the loss of a seat once held by former Republican councilman Matt Reilly as an example of the humiliation to which she claims Hopkins has subjected the party. Reilly, once City Council chair, resigned in May 2023 following his arrest and charge of possession of a controlled substance. The seat was won in a special election by Democrat Daniel Wall against School Committee member Anthony Melillo. Reilly is now also facing criminal charges for child molestation.

The loss of both Ferri and Reilly resulted in a 5-4 Republican majority in the city council flipping to a 6-3 Democrat supermajority.

Ferri, who is expected to announce as the Democratic nominee for mayor, cited both Hopkins and Reilly as reasons for his decision to switch parties.  

Fenton-Fung further writes “The "my way or the highway" tactics Ken Hopkins and his campaign team have been using belong in the 1950s - women don't take orders from men like that anymore. His team's numerous overtures to get me out of the race in the past few weeks are only more evidence that he must be concerned that his ideas and track record are not all that popular.”

Fenton-Fung claims she will pursue a more modern style of governing, which she claims will be popular with Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

Cranston Forward, a progressive group with which Fenton-Fung has often seemed to be aligned, at least in their mutual opposition to Hopkins’ plan for the Budlong Pool, released its first statement of the political season on January 30.

They cite Fenton-Fung’s conservative track record, especially as it relates to abortion and gun-control. They further implicitly connect her with former president Donald Trump. In the release, Cranston Forward includes a photo of Fenton-Fung attending Trump’s inauguration. Fenton-Fung is on the record as having voted for Trump in 2020.

While tensions rise within Republican ranks, no candidate has yet announced their candidacy as of writing. While Ferri is the most likely candidate, he has so far chosen not to discuss his intentions. However, he did say on January 30 that the Democrats will have a good candidate, and that they will be announced in the next couple weeks.

Fenton-Fung was scheduled to announce her run on January 30, which is after this edition of the Cranston Herald goes to print.

mayoral, primary, Republicans


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