Ken Hopkins has opted against a bid for the mayor’s office in 2020, planning instead to seek reelection to his City Council seat – and, if the Republican majority holds, to take on the council’s top leadership post.
“I’ve had a lot of people ask me to run for mayor … But I think I’d like to pursue the council presidency first,” said Hopkins, who unveiled his plans during a recent fundraising event at Marchetti’s restaurant in Knightsville.
On Monday, Hopkins said he has turned his focus to working with Chris Buonanno, chairman of the Cranston Republican City Committee, to recruit candidates for the GOP’s council slate in the 2020 election. He also said he is backing current Council President Michael Farina’s expected bid to succeed Mayor Allan Fung.
“Things can change … Right now, it’s Mike Farina’s race, and I’m going to support him,” he said. “Hopefully, he’s the guy who wins the race.”
A retired Cranston High School East educator, former Cranston athletic director and longtime coach, Hopkins won his citywide council seat in 2016 in his first bid for public office. He was reelected in 2018.
Republicans currently hold a 5-4 advantage on the council. Along with Farina and Hopkins, the majority includes Edward Brady of Ward 4, Chris Paplauskas of Ward 5 and Michael Favicchio of Ward 6.
The Democratic caucus includes Citywide Councilman Steven Stycos, Lammis Vargas of Ward 1, Paul McAuley of Ward 2 and John Donegan of Ward 3.
Hopkins’ decision would appear to give the GOP a head start as the parties ready their respective slates for the council’s citywide seats.
Farina, who is serving his fourth term in a citywide seat, is widely expected to run for mayor rather than for a new council term. Stycos, who represented Ward 1 for four terms before winning a citywide seat in 2018, is prevented from seeking reelection due to terms limits.
The announcement also narrows a 2020 mayoral field that has the potential to become crowded on both the Democratic and Republican sides. With Fung prevented by term limits from seeking reelection, the mayor’s office will be open for the first time in more than a decade.
In addition to Farina, potential GOP candidates include Paplauskas, former councilman Jim Donahue and Barbara Ann Fenton. On the Democratic side, Stycos has said he is exploring a run, as are state Rep. Charlene Lima and former mayor Michael Napolitano.
On Monday, Hopkins said he “absolutely” remains interested in a future mayoral campaign.
In terms of council recruitment, Hopkins said one additional candidate has already been identified for the GOP’s citywide ticket. He said another candidate has signed on to seek the Ward 6 seat held by Favicchio, who currently serves as council vice president and will – like Stycos – be barred by term limits from seeking reelection.
Hopkins declined to identify either of the recruits but said he expects an announcement from will be made shortly.
“Putting the team together, that’s what I’m working on right now … I think those are really two key spots for us,” he said of the citywide and Ward 6 seats.
In a press release regarding the announcement at his fundraising event, Hopkins indicated several current and former elected officials from both major parties were in attendance. According to the release, those included Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza; Carlos Lopez Estrada, the former chief of staff for Mayor Allan Fung, who currently holds the same position for Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien; Democratic state Rep. Chris Millea; and McAuley and Farina.
On Monday, Hopkins said he has focused on “building bridges on both sides of the aisle” during his two terms on the council. He cited public safety and education as top priorities and pointed to Chapel View and the planned Topgolf facility on Sockanosset Cross Road as examples of positive economic development.
“My record speaks for itself in terms of voting across the aisle,” he said. “I think the decisions we’ve made in the last two years have made the city better.