CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Longtime state Rep. Charlene Lima says she hopes to decide next month whether to run for Cranston mayor, and has sent a letter to city Democrats warning them against making a hasty decision about who to support.
“The selection of our Mayoral candidate should not be rushed, rather it should be done after a deliberate and thoughtful process once all potential candidates are known,” Lima wrote in the letter to members of the Cranston Democratic City Committee, obtained by WPRI 12.
The letterhead said “Charlene Lima – Democrat 2020,” with a message underneath: “From the White House to our State Houses to our City & Town Halls, Democrats / Victory 2020.”
Reached by phone Monday night, Lima said she still hasn’t made up her mind about whether to seek the corner office in Rhode Island’s second-largest city, but acknowledged she is seriously considering the possibility.
“I want to get through the holidays and have a little more time to think about it,” she said.
Lima, 66, represents House District 14 and was first elected to the General Assembly in 1992. She currently holds the position of deputy speaker in the House Democratic leadership team, though she is known for her independent streak and has not been afraid to tangle with multiple House speakers. And she is currently sitting on $126,000 in campaign cash, giving her a sizable war chest to fund a bid.
The race for Cranston mayor is expected to be among the most closely watched elections in Rhode Island next year. Republican incumbent Allan Fung, a two-time gubernatorial candidate first elected in 2008, is ineligible to run again due to term limits. Multiple Republicans and Democrats have indicated their interest in the seat.
Lima could face competition from former Mayor Mike Napolitano, a Democrat who narrowly defeated Fung in 2006 but only served one term; he has previously expressed his interest in potentially running again. Cranston City Councilman Steve Stycos has also indicated an openness to running.
Without naming any potential opponent specifically, Lima said her letter was in part meant to caution Cranston Democrats that “we don’t want different factions before we even know who’s running, to start to start make commitments and then want to change — you really shouldn’t do that.”
“I think the Democratic Party needs to make sure we get things right and hopefully get things cohesive and work together so that we have a good fighting chance,” she said.
Republicans have had a near-lock on Cranston City Hall over the past century, with Democrats holding the mayor’s office for only six years since 1963.
In her letter to the city’s Democratic leaders, Lima said she hopes in 2020 to see them “unite in the common goal of regaining City Hall for the people.” She urged them to support a candidate “who has the experience, the vision, the commitment and most of all the ability work with Democrats and Republicans, Progressives and Conservatives, Independents and Moderates, business owners and working men and women working together to improve the lives of all the citizens of Cranston.”
Cranston has never elected a woman as mayor. If Lima ran, it would also open up her District 14 seat, which runs westward roughly from Route 5 to Route 10 and also takes in a small portion of Silver Lake in Providence.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook