A debate over the use of, and connotations behind, a familiar campaign slogan has become the subject of often intensely personal sparring between the two Republican candidates for mayor. The spat stems from a June 18 tweet by City
A debate over the use of, and connotations behind, a familiar campaign slogan has become the subject of often intensely personal sparring between the two Republican candidates for mayor.
The spat stems from a June 18 tweet by City Council President Michael Farina questioning Citywide Councilman Ken Hopkins’ use of the term “H train” in describing his campaign – as in, an invitation to supporters to come aboard, the “H” meant to represent “Hopkins.”
Farina, however, saw a different meaning.
The council president’s tweet includes a screenshot of one of Hopkins’ “H train” posts from Facebook, which shows images of Hopkins campaign signs and includes words of thanks to supporters.
“The ‘H’ train is starting to get momentum,” the original post from Hopkins reads.
Imposed over the post in the image Farina shared, however, is a definition of “Riding The H-Train” apparently found on the website UrbanDictionary.com. “Riding the h-train,” it reads, “is a reference to heroin junkies.”
“Ken, opioid addiction is a serious problem in the United States and getting on the ‘H-train’ is not appropriate,” Farina wrote in his tweet.
Days later, in a statement, Hopkins blasted his GOP opponent over the tweet. The header: “Hopkins expresses outrage and disbelief in Farina attack on his campaign slogan.”
Hopkins, the statement reads, “expressed outrage and personal resentment against his primary opponent Michael Farina who has accused his supporters and followers of being ‘heroin junkies.’” The statement indicates Hopkins has used the “H train” slogan since his first run for council in 2016, and asserts that Farina “had no issue with the slogan when we ran twice on the same Republican ticket for city council.”
“What a disgusting and outrageous linkage to my family and my supporters,” Hopkins said in the statement. “I made a dedicated career as a teacher and administrator in Cranston schools, warning young people of the harm and deadly effects caused by drugs and the illicit use of things like heroin. As a long time athletic coach, I encouraged good decisions and safe behavior by every young person I coached, including my many years as the CCRI Baseball Coach,” stated Hopkins.
He later added: “Obviously my campaign is picking up steam and [Farina] needed to stoop to such reprehensible attacks to try and slow my momentum.”
Referencing a 2016 controversy in which Farina was charged with sexism over a Facebook post and later apologized, Hopkins added: “Well now he is two for two in immature social media behavior.”
In a Monday statement, Farina stood by his criticism of the “H train” slogan, saying that at a time of “raised awareness of issues that devastate so many individuals and their loved ones, it is no longer acceptable to sit back and use phrases that are potentially harmful and offensive – even if it’s not one’s intent.”
“By frequently using the term ‘Riding the H-Train,’ a commonly-known slang term for heroin addicts, my opponent is demonstrating a resistance to evolving with the times, and blatantly ignoring simple, common decency,” Farina’s statement reads. “Just as in our own State, we are removing the word ‘plantation’ from documents because of its negative connotation in America’s history. I oppose using language that insensitively refers to the massive opioid addiction plaguing our country. Regardless of my opponent’s use of this term in the past, it is not appropriate in today’s world. I believe Hopkins should refrain from using ‘Riding the H-Train’ as a rally-cry and hope he reflects on how that term has the potential for misinterpretation. Instead, I invite Hopkins to present his platform.”
In response to Farina’s defense of his tweet, Hopkins issues another statement accusing Farina of a “sad display of trying misdirection and doublespeak” and pointing to a “tsunami of criticism on social media for his cheap and vile political attacks against me.” The statement includes several references to social media posts critical of Farina.
Hopkins’s second statement adds: “Farina has never heard of the expression, ‘When you are in a hole and want to get out – stop digging.’”
Farina receives city GOP’s endorsement
The “H train” exchange came just days after the Cranston Republican City Committee voted to endorse Farina’s candidacy on a 33-9 vote. Farina announced the committee’s backing of his campaign shortly after the closed-door proceedings concluded June 24, the day after the end of the official candidate declaration period.
“I am humbled and honored to receive the endorsement of the Cranston Republican City Committee,” Farina’s statement reads. “It is the next step as we work towards a primary win in September. The CRCC knows I am the right candidate and has full confidence in my ability to lead Cranston into a brighter future. My skills in leadership, my strong financial acumen, and my effectiveness in creating innovative solutions are critically important in this race. My opponent does not have these skills, and this overwhelming support shows that.”
Hopkins, who has been endorsed by Mayor Allan Fung, issued his own statement expressing “disappointment” at the vote but thanking those committee members supportive of his bid.
“When I entered the race very late in the season, I knew many members of the party had already committed to another candidate,” Hopkins said in the statement. “I respect their decision to maintain their commitment and look forward to having their support following our victory in September.”
The statement continues: “My campaign has received very enthusiastic support around the city and we will move forward with excitement to tell our story to the voters … I am honored to have the support of Mayor Allan Fung and I look forward to continuing his outstanding record of accomplishment in keeping Cranston the best city in Rhode Island.”
City Democrats don’t endorse in mayoral primary
During its own meeting on June 24, the Cranston Democratic City Committee opted not to endorse either of the party’s two major candidates for mayor.
The decision came after both Citywide Councilman Steve Stycos and former Ward 4 councilwoman Maria Bucci requested that course of action while addressing the committee members, according to committee Chairman Michael Sepe, Stycos and others in attendance.
Bucci, however, issued a statement following the meeting describing the committee’s decision not to make an endorsement “disappointing.” It reads: “After hearing from Democrats in the race for Mayor, it was clear the Committee had already decided it would not make an endorsement.”
“With Cranston being controlled by Republicans, it is critical that the Democratic Party unites,” Bucci said in the statement. “My campaign is about listening and bringing people together. I will work hard to earn the support of Cranston voters, because I know that together, we succeed.”
Erich Haslehurst, Bucci’s campaign manager, added in the statement: “It’s time to move on from this style of politics and focus on breaking the last glass ceiling in Cranston by electing a strong woman to the Mayor’s office. Maria Bucci will bring new energy and leadership to both the Democratic Party and City Hall when she is elected Mayor.”
In an email Monday, Stycos said: “We both stood in front of the entire committee and we both said we supported no endorsement so as to avoid dividing the party and weakening the chances of electing a Democrat for mayor. I stand by my statement.”
During a phone call Tuesday, Sepe said he was “a little disappointed” in Bucci’s statement. Both candidates, he said, had the opportunity to seek the committee’s endorsement and instead decided to take another course.
Sepe said he is not backing either of the candidates – “May the best person win” – and that he has advised them both: “Like a ref at a boxing match, keep your punches high.”
Another candidate, Adam Carbone, has declared his candidacy for mayor as a Democrat. He has pledged an unorthodox campaign centered on the creation of a new political entity, which he calls the “Bagel & Cream Cheese Party.”
Parties endorse council hopefuls
During last week’s Republican and Democratic city committee meetings, local party leaders backed their respective slates of candidates for seats on the City Council.
On the GOP side, endorsed citywide hopefuls include Robert Ferri, Nicole Renzulli and Donald Roach. Ferri and Renzulli filed candidate declaration forms during last week’s three-day window, while Roach was appointed to the third slot on the citywide ticket after another recruit, Alphonse Cardi III, was deemed ineligible due to his party affiliation. Cardi has declared his candidacy as an independent.
Two incumbent ward council members – Ed Brady in Ward 4 and Chris Paplauskas in Ward 5 – are unopposed in their reelection bids and received the party’s backing. Other endorsed candidates including Christopher Maxwell in Ward 1, Zachary Sailer in Ward 2, Jay Bombardier Jr. in Ward 3 and Matthew Reilly in Ward 6.
On the Democratic side, the endorsed slate of citywide candidates includes Ward 3 School Committee member Paul Archetto, Larry Warner and Dylan Zelazo. A fourth candidate, Jessica Marino, has declared her citywide candidacy as a Democrat and will vie for a spot on the November ballot in September’s primary.
The Democratic ward council endorsements include two incumbents – Ward 1 Councilwoman Lammis Vargas and Ward 3 Councilman John Donegan – along with hopefuls Aniece Germain in Ward 2 and Paul Bucci in Ward 6.
In a press release announcing his party’s endorsements, Cranston Republican City Committee Chairman Chris Buonanno said: “We fielded a diverse, dedicated and talented team focused on Cranston’s wellbeing, financial health, and business growth. All of these candidates are committed to combating the leftist, radical, progressive agenda that has taken the City’s Democratic Party hostage, and keeping the focus on representing the everyday taxpayer.”
That drew a strong response from Donegan on social media, who took issue with Buonanno’s characterization of the Democratic agenda.
In a Twitter thread, he pointed to a number issues championed by the council’s Democrats – including relief on late tax penalties and interest, support for renewable energy efforts and additional funding for the city’s schools – and asked if each was, indeed, “radical.”
“They can hurl that label at me all they’d like, but I will pick it up and wear it as a badge of honor. I’m proud of our work, and I’m proud to be a part of a party fighting for a more just and equitable Cranston for everyone,” Donegan wrote.
Germain seeks Ward 2 appointment
Aniece Germain, the endorsed Democratic candidate for the Ward 2 seat on the City Council, has publicly expressed her interest in appointment to the post following the resignation of Paul McAuley.
“Given the recent vacancy to the Cranston City Council in Ward 2, I would like to submit my name for consideration to be appointed to the vacant seat for the remainder of the current term,” Germain wrote on Facebook. “I am the only declared Democrat in the race … I want to bring our community together to make the change we want to see.”
Under the terms of the city’s charter, City Council terms vacated beyond the first six months of inauguration are to be filled through an appointment of the council.
Appointments are to be made “for the unexpired portion of the term, provided that in the case of a council vacancy the position shall be filled with a person belonging to the same political party as the late incumbent and if the late incumbent had been a representative of a ward, with a person residing in the same ward,” the charter reads.
McAuley, a Democrat, announced several weeks ago that he would not seek reelection. He abruptly resigned last week, however, following a dispute with the council’s legal advisers.
Republican Zac Sailer has also declared his candidacy for the Ward 2 seat.
In an email Monday, Council President Michael Farina said legal counsel is still reviewing McAuley’s resignation letter and that an additional step is still needed to formalize it.
“I have to sign a personal release this week to officially have Paul McAuley be resigned,” Farina said. “I’m having the attorneys review his resignation letter since it was conditional based on an apology. They are making sure his letter is official.”
He added: “Also since we’re in the middle of an election cycle I asked the process be reviewed by legal to make sure all the boxes are ticked. I am assuming there will be no issues and plan to appoint [a Ward 2 member] at the full council meeting in July.”
When it was noted during meetings last week that vacancies exists on the council committees on which McAuley was serving – and that the body’s rules dictate committees include at least two members of the minority party – Farina said those vacancies would be filled through new committee appointments ahead of July’s scheduled meetings.
Full picture emerges as declaration period passes
Following the end of the three-day candidate declaration period for local and state offices on June 24, the full slate of hopefuls has come into focus.
There have been developments in the field for General Assembly since the end of the declaration period, specifically related to local House of Representatives seats.
Two incumbent Democrats representing parts of Cranston – District 17 Rep. Robert Jacquard and District 42 Rep. Stephen Ucci – have announced they will not seek reelection despite filing candidacy paperwork last week. The impending departure of both men from the legislature was first reported by WPRI’s Ted Nesi.
In District 17, Jacquard told Nesi he is supporting Democrat Jacquelyn M. Baginski, who declared her candidacy, as his successor. David W. McGinn has been appointed as the Republican candidate in District 17.
Ucci, meanwhile, is backing Edward T. Cardillo Jr., who declared for the District 42 seat. The Rhode Island GOP has appointed Frank T. Ricci to its spot on the ballot for the district.
House District 16, currently represented by incumbent Democrat Christopher Millea, was also the subject of late developments following the Herald’s press time last week.
Brandon C. Potter, who is affiliated with the progressive Rhode Island Political Cooperative, has filed to challenge Millea in the Democratic primary. Meanwhile, the Rhode Island GOP has appointed Maryann Lancia – wife of Robert Lancia, the former District 16 representative and a current candidate for Congress – to its spot on the ballot. Candidates were able to pick up nomination papers – which require between 50 and 200 voter signatures to qualify for ballot placement, depending on the office – on Tuesday. Those papers are due at City Hall by Friday, July 10.
The following is a full list of the declared candidates for mayor, City Council, School Committee and the General Assembly:
Maria A. Bucci (D)
Adam S. Carbone (D)
Michael J. Farina (R)
Kenneth J. Hopkins (R)
Steven A. Stycos (D)
Paul H. Archetto (D)
Alphonse R. Cardi III (I)
Robert J. Ferri (R)
Jessica M. Marino (D)
Nicole Renzulli (R)
Donald J. Roach (R) / appointed
Larry O. Warner (D)
Dylan M. Zelazo (D)
1: Christopher T. Maxwell (R)
1: Lammis J. Vargas* (D)
2: Aniece Germain (D)
2: Zachary D. Sailer (R)
3: Jay S. Bombardier (R)
3: John P. Donegan* (D)
4: Edward J. Brady* (R)
5: Christopher G. Paplauskas* (R)
6: Paul A. Bucci (D)
6: Matthew R. Reilly (R)
SCHOOL COMMITTEE (nonpartisan)
Citywide: Michael A. Traficante*
1: Stephanie Gyamfi-Darkwah
1: Sara K. Tindall-Woodman*
2: Kristen E. Haroian*
3: Domenic F. Fusco
4: Vincent L. Turchetta*
5: David A. Alden-Sears*
6: Daniel R. Wall*
Dist. 14: Charlene Lima* (D)
Dist. 15: Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung (R)
Dist. 15: Nicholas A. Mattiello* (D)
Dist. 16: Maryann Lancia (R)
Dist. 16: Christopher T. Millea* (D)
Dist. 16: Brandon C. Potter (D)
Dist. 17: Jacquelyn M. Baginski (D)
Dist. 17: Robert B. Jacquard* (D)
Dist. 17: David W. McGinn (R) / appointed
Dist. 18: Arthur Handy* (D)
Dist. 19: Patrick E. Maloney Jr. (D)
Dist. 19: Joseph McNamara* (D)
Dist. 19: Stuart A. Wilson (D)
Dist. 20: David A. Bennett* (D)
Dist. 41: Pamela Carosi (D)
Dist. 41: Giuseppe Mattiello (D)
Dist. 41: Robert J. Quattrocchi* (R)
Dist. 42: Edward T. Cardillo Jr. (D)
Dist. 42: Frank T. Ricci (R) / appointed
Dist. 42: Stephen R. Ucci* (D)
Dist. 26: Anthony Fagundes (R)
Dist. 26: Frank S. Lombardi* (D)
Dist. 27: Pat V. Cortellessa (R)
Dist. 27: Hanna M. Gallo* (D)
Dist. 27: Jonathan J. Keith (I)
Dist. 28: Joshua Miller* (D)
Dist. 28: Robert A. Schattle (I)
Dist. 31: Kendra Anderson (D)
Dist. 31: Brian S. Dunckley (D)
Dist. 31: Steve Merolla (D)
Dist. 31: Michael F. Mita (D)
Dist. 31: John P. Silvaggio (R)
Dist. 31: Scott M. Zambarano (R)
* denotes incumbent