McFarland Will Not Seek Top Cranston Post

UPDATE: Paula McFarland provides a comment below in which she gives us the update on last night’s Democratic city committee meeting, where it looks like Charlene Lima and Peter Palumbo are not seeking the mayoral nomination, and Cindy Fogarty, Dan Beardsley, and Mario Carlino are in the running. Paula also reaffirms her interest in running for Cranston School Committee.


Via Rhode Island’s Future, we learn that Paula McFarland is ruling out a run for Mayor of Cranston, citing the issue of lack of funding for the campaign. Matt Jerzyk posted the following statement, which I assume is from the Democratic City Committee in Cranston:

…During these fifteen years Paula has served as a community leader, an advocate, an organizer, a taxpayer, a resident and your neighbor in the City of Cranston. This is the same place where Paula continues to deeply care about the issues and envisions a democratic platform that will create change in the next couple of years, which is so desperately needed and critical to the future of Cranston.

So the action of the Cranston Democratic City Committee must be to move quickly to decide upon a mayoral candidate, as it is extremely imperative. A strong leader is vital to any campaign, as our candidate must begin to campaign rather quickly. He or she will have to raise an enormous amount of money in a short time frame to run a successful mayoral campaign.

And since Paula’s ability to raise the necessary funds to run a successful mayoral campaign on behalf of the all the citizens of Cranston is not possible at this time, Paula today is announcing that she will withdraw her name for consideration by the Cranston Democratic Party Committee. Paula extends her support and organizational abilities to the Cranston Democratic Party Committee upon their choosing of the next democratic mayoral candidate.

To those who have offered Paula their support, encouragement and assistance she is truly honored. “So many residents, business owners, friends and family wanted me to run for mayor that it has been inspirational. I am will continue to work tirelessly on your behalf and I am sure that I will actively look for an elective role that will help build Cranston’s future. May God bless all of you and “DUM VIGILO CURO� (while I watch I care) over our City of Cranston,� declared Paula McFarland.

It’s disheartening to see how finance is so central to being able to run for election, especially when you consider the intrinstic value of a potential candidate like Paula in working for the city and knowing the history of the city over the past decade. There is all sorts of talk in this state about how we need more women in leadership, but the sad fact is that the money is not there to put qualified women on the ballot.

22 thoughts on “McFarland Will Not Seek Top Cranston Post

  1. This makes it all the more likely that Charlene Lima will be the Dem candidate. Of the remaining possibilities, she’s the only one who could raise the money, likely to be somewhere around $150,000.

  2. Ruminations by someone who decided to do other home improvements rather than installing central air.

    First, late last week I heard a rumor about Charlene and Paula. The rumor was that Lima was going to go for Mayor and McFarland would run for Lima’s rep seat. Although this came from someone usually pretty well plugged in, I hate trading in rumors – although in this case, there seems to be legs to the story. We’ll see. But I also heard from several sources that she might have a COI between her job and holding state office. I don’t know if that’s true and haven’t been moved to find out.

    Related to that rumor was another rumor that the city party leadership contacted other possible candidates to gauge interest in running for mayor. This would have occurred after Charlene expressed interest in running. I tend to believe this for reasons not related to the rumor. But then again, who knows….?

    Second, that said, I agree w/ Jesse that Charlene looks to be a likely candidate. It never seemed likely that both Lima and McFarland would run for Mayor. They shared the same base (labor) and represented the same section of the city (Ward 3 w/ Lima overlapping into part of Ward 5). It would seem that both would slice their natural base pretty thin.

    However, if she emerges as the endorsed candidate, Charlene may have some problems getting elected. I don’t know how much recognition she has outside of the rep. district. Of course, the party apparatus and labor support could help with that a bit. She also will have deal with any impact the statewide budget has on the city. Finally, she’ll have to overcome her inexperience in municipal governance. I’m not saying she can’t overcome these problems, I’m just saying that she’s going to have some serious challenges to overcome on her way to City Hall.

    Third, I agree with you Kiersten. Paula aside, one has to wonder how many people decide not to run b/c of the enormous expense of a campaign. And to extrapolate that further, how often does a community suffer because talented and dedicated people choose not to run because of fear of incurring crushing expenses or failure to raise sufficient funds to compete for office? Money hasn’t just perverted the democratic process; in many cases it has demolished the process. It just doesn’t impact elections, but also impacts governance.

    There are ways to deal with this issue. Arizona and Maine have public financing schemes for statewide general offices and state legislative offices. The early studies suggest that there are a greater number of competitive elections and that those who opt into the public financing scheme have been successful against their privately financed opponents.

    As you might know, I’ve been advocating some form of workable campaign finance reform for years. McFarland is just another in a long series of examples of people who are forced to make a decision to run on mostly financial considerations. Public financing of campaigns will be costly, but there are schemes where money can be raised without breaking the state’s piggy bank. At its heart, the question is basic – although costly, can we afford not to implement a public finance scheme in order to open up the process to more voices and ideas?

  3. Geoff:

    A careful and thoughtful response, as usual. I hope you’ll consider mine the same:

    — As to COIs, Paula’s position at RIHMFC very well could prevent her from seeking executive or state office. Hard to know for certain unless it’s publicized.

    — It doesn’t surprise me that there would be a rumor about the party looking for other potential candidates. The negatives you mention, I would hazard to guess, have not gone unnoticed — and since the stated goal of the city committee is to field the best candidates, it’s quite logical to conclude that they want to take a chance to find someone with fewer potential liabilities.

    — Labor support, name recognition, state budget, and municipal experience: Going by past elections, it’s really difficult to guess how much effect these factors will have. Laffey won two terms with no previous experience in government and name recognition built up with a branding campaign. Nap had been the traffic court judge, was supported by the unions, and was well-known, but squeaked out a 72-vote win.

    Still, Fung could pound Lima over her position in the General Assembly (“You’re part of the problem”), although practically speaking, the labor support Lima would get could cancel out the voting impact. Makes me wonder, though: would Lima use the “We were misled by the Republican governor” line? In any case, this match-up would turn into a referendum on the GA-vs.-Carcieri situation, as opposed to a “who’s better for Cranston” debate.

    — With the last 3 mayoral elections being won by wealthy candidates, it’s hard to argue with your point about the potentially bad effect of money on elections. I think you’re right, that public financing must be considered if we want to stop our local offices from simply going to the highest bidder (or group of bidders, in the case of contributors).

  4. I have NEVER received a response from Charlene Lima to any of my emails, until the one I sent the other day regarding open space funding. Getting a response (finally) to me is one indicator that she may be considering a run as she’s replying to Cranston residents outside of her district.

  5. Jesse, as always I find your comments insightful and thorough. As for Paula’s possible COI relative to her possible interest in Lima’s rep seat, I guess we’ll know more if she seeks an Ethics Commission review. Just a minor point, I believe that Paula works for RICAA and not RIHMFC. I looked at RICAA’s web site to see if it listed donors and other sources of funding. It seems an advocacy agency for its eight member CAAs that advocates for some state funding for operations of specific programs conducted by its member agencies. I wonder if the Ethics Commission would view advocacy for funding for member agencies the same as advocacy for funding for the umbrella agency? I don’t think anyone has gotten rich betting on what the EC will do on a given issue.

    You came up with a good point about a possible “General Assembly v. Governor� narrative in this campaign if Charlene is the nominee. I don’t think that narrative favors Lima and clearly is not to the benefit of the citizens of Cranston.

    Again, we agree that the factors in a campaign shift with each election. While all the factors might be present (e.g. labor concerns, budget issues, etc.) the context in which they appear seemingly changes year to year. But, if someone could plug into the zeitgeist of change, pretty much all of the factors we identified could quickly turn into negatives. Of course, from Lima’s perspective the question is whether Fung is the change agent able to capitalize on a “change election.� He’s not exactly a fresh, new face.

    It’s only June 8 and things are already getting interesting. And so it goes….

  6. Paula does work for the Community Action Programs, she’s the Exec. Director.

    How much does the typical mayoral campaign cost the candidate?

  7. Rachel, to answer your question, in typical lawyerly fashion, the answer is “it depends.” For example, is a candidate a “known” or “unknown”? Is s/he an incumbent or challenger? Is there a primary, which can boost the cost considerably? What do you need in terms of resources to run an effective campaign? And, all too often, how much money does an opponent bring to the game.

    To go into specifics, I think Jesse was close when he offered the figure of $ 150,000, and that might even be conservative. We know that Fung raised over $ 90k in his narrow loss of two years ago and it’s reasonable to assume that he’ll exceed that number this year when there are no other high-profile races (e.g. General offices) this year.

    There are any number of “big ticket” items in a race of this kind. One is polling. How expensive that is depends on what you’re polling for, how deep the pollster drills down, how extensive the analysis is, and how often you poll. Suffice to say, it can get costly.

    Second is “media” which would take in broadcast, web-based, and print media. In a race for Cranston mayor, print media will probably be the primary mode of communicating w/ the public. There are the usual handouts distributed in canvassing efforts, and the “mailers” that come on a weekly and, sometimes toward the end of the campaign, daily basis. The cost of printing and mailing, even at bulk mail rates, to thousands of Cranston households can be astronomical. Add to that the cost of printing (Two color, three color, four color? that all impacts cost) and you could be soon bleeding money to the printer and post office.

    (As an aside, referring back to the issue of campaign finance reform, aside from some kind of public financing scheme, any reform will need to include some provision that will reduce the cost of printing, publishing and mailing direct communications to voters.)

    Third, a headquarters and staff. A candidate will need a visible and large headquarters. This not only provides an invitation to the public, but also provides a workspace for volunteers and staff to perform the work of a campaign. Add to that the expense of telephones (if you don’t farm it out to a private company which has its own expense) and now you’re talking about real money. A campaign for mayor might want to “hire” people to man the office and oversee tasks. These aren’t big salaried “West Wing” jobs, but it’ll cost a campaign a few hundred/thousand dollars, depending on the number of hires. Some of the cost for this can be/should be shared between all city-wide campaigns, but the bulk often falls on the mayoral campaign because it has the most money to spend (see most of the finance reports for the campaigns for city council – flush w/ cash they ain’t).

    Add to that the “frills and extras” of a campaign. Then put in the cost of the dinners/parties at the senior centers/manors, rallies, food and drink for volunteers and other similar items, and it runs a few bucks more.

    Now, on top of that the question is whether the candidate for Mayor is well-known throughout the community or has some name recognition work to do. So, in this instance, let’s use Fung vs. Democrat (c/b Lima, Carlino, Palombo, Beardsly – Forgarty b/c of her run last year has something of a leg up here). Fung, having recently run and narrowly lost last year’s election will probably have a different approach to the campaign than will any of the named democrats. All of them, to one extent or another, would have to focus at first on name recognition. Depending on whether it’s Lima, the candidate might have to work to defend unpopular actions by the Assembly. Without belaboring the point, all these situations/decisions cost money.

    And we haven’t even touched on the hiring of “counsultants”! This is a long way to get to my basic answer – the cost “depends”.

    Hope this helps with your question.

  8. Geoff and Jesse,
    Like Rachel I really had no idea just how expensive a mayoral campaign could be. Basically the cost to get elected equals the office’s salary per term. Wow!
    Geoff, thanks for going into detail on the costs and I agree that the democratic process is somewhat compromised by the prohibitive costs of waging such expensives campaigns.

  9. Richard:

    You can also find finance reports online at the Rhode Island Board of Elections website. That’s another good way to see what people have spent for their campaigns.

    Another way to look at it is this:

    Starting July 1 and going through mid-November (let’s call it 19 weeks), a candidate would probably have to raise/spend something on the order of $7,500 per week to afford everything Geoff mentioned, plus the polling consultants. That’s just shy of $150,000 for a four-month campaign.

    Sorry, folks, I didn’t know Paula had changed agencies. Thanks for bringing me up to date.

  10. Geoff,
    Thanks for the detailed information, I was unaware of what a financial commitment running for Mayor could be. Probably the majority of residents would be excluded from ever running for mayor based on finances alone. Are you planning on running for any elected position this election?

    I have the link to the campaign reports. They’re actually interesting because you can see who contributed, how much and there are sometimes trends among the donors. I can send the link to you if you’d like.

  11. Personally, I think an effective campaign engineered by the Party and candidate early on would keep dollars needed to a minimum (whatever that ridiculous amount is. Nappy needed so much because he was an unknown to the community) by networking early on and because relatively few voters knew who some candidates…I agree with Geoff.

    I recall the Mayor saying he had the most money and he had that over Palumbo or any other candidate. I said he doesn’t need as much money as you…he was 14 yrs. as a Rep., 2 terms as Councilman and the Planning Commission…so he has name and reputation on you and he only needs $70,000 to campaign. Now, take this with any candidate like McFarland versus Mr. Rich. I think McFarland would need considerably less because she had many citizens (whom she has helped even though she wasn’t a “Citywide Council member” and they will lobby for her….and so on, and so on.

    Jesse, I would be interested in seeing the donor link. Thanks for the valuable information.

  12. Let me begin with “Thank You” for all of your comments, I am truly grateful and humbled by each of your words. What an opportunity to even think that I could be considered for our City’s top post. I now get to do what I think will be best for the City of Cranston – to advocate for the causes that mean the most to all of us – open space, comp plan, and flooding issues. I will offer my guidance to members of the City Council and the new Administration regarding our financial situation and my hopes for implementation of an affordable health plan. These are things that I can assist with and still have time with my family over the next couple of years. Most of you may not realize that I have not been home very much in the last 10 years and unlike the General Assembly, the City Council does not work only for 6 months with 6 months off. I have spent the last 10 years working on your behalf 12 months out of each year and have not missed too many meetings. And I would never change a moment of that chapter of my life. It has been the most satisfying and rewarding opportunity I have had – Although, now I will have sometime to put those memory books together that I have been putting off for the last several years. As this opportunity is without any regret as I have and will continue to be oblige to all of our citizens of Cranston for putting your faith and trust in me.

    Just a quick update regarding my possibly candidacy, as I am not running for State Rep. Rep. Lima and Rep. Palumbo did not come to Cranston Democratic Party Committee tonight. As far as I know they have removed their names for consideration as well, as I would suspect regarding their absent from City Committee meeting tonight, it would mean that.

    I was the only elected official to speak at the beginning of the meeting and then it was time for interviews of the candidates individually with each Ward Committee.

    Oh yes, you want to know who those candidates are: Former Councilwoman/2006 Mayoral Candidate Cindy Fogarty, Former Vice-President – City Wide Councilman Mario Carlino, and Mr. Dan Beardsley. There was no decision or discussion by the individual Ward Committees, so I am unsure who the candidate will be and we probably will not know until the endorsement night of June 25th or unless the chairperson of each Ward makes a decision, but this would be impossible (I think) without the input of all of the members of the City Committee.

    With all my appreciation,


    P.S. I will keep you updated on my plans; however, I am leaning towards my original plan – which is to run for an opportunity to serve the citizens of Cranston on the School Committee and assist the educational challenges of our City with my municipal finance knowledge and my experience of serving on the City Council. Hope this helps with all the speculation surrounding the last couple of weeks.

  13. Thank you for your comments, Paula, and for the update from last night’s city committee meeting. I am surprised by Charlene Lima’s absence — I got the impression she was very serious about running. So that brings the candidates to Dan Beardsley, Cindy Fogarty, and Mario Carlino. I will put an update in the main post above to alert readers to your comments.

    I sincerely hope you will be running for school committee. I am convinced that with your experience and leadership, we could deal more effectively with the challenges we face in our school district.

  14. Paula,
    Thank you for filling us in and I’m so glad to hear that you’ll still be working on issues in the City that are of importance to you. Like Kiersten, I hope you decide to run for School Committee as well because the education system and kids in Cranston need someone to fight for them.

    I’m not familiar with Carlino and Beardsley, I guess I haven’t been in Cranston long enough to know anything about them. I look forward to learning more, as it’s so important that we have a mayor (whomever it may be) that will work with the residents to move Cranston in the right direction.

  15. And now a word from the wise Indira Gandhi:

    “My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was less competition there.”

    I see Paula as one of those people who probably deserves more credit than she gets. Putting in 10 years on the local level in government is tough work. I’ve only been paying attention for about 7 of her 10 years and I’m duly impressed. Representing a middle class neighborhood is also tough, and one reason is because you will probably never have any big-money people living in your area who can donate large sums to your campaign. It makes it hard to move up unless you’ve inherited money or gone into a very high-paying career.

    I would temper the great Gandhi’s words a bit to say it’s fine to want to be recognized for the good you do, but if all you’re interested in is public accolades, you’re probably not doing a very good job. Hence the empty suit phenomenon in modern politics.

  16. Folks:

    Just read today’s ProJo piece on the endorsement meeting. Thanks to Paula, we’ve got the general idea. Still, there were a couple of things that jumped out at me.

    — Nice of the paper to give some space on Wednesday to a story from Monday night. The Dem race is so important, they’ll hold it for a day — thanks, ProJo.

    — Scharfy seems to be using the ProJo archives to rehash an old story and try to make it new. Mario Carlino’s “feud” with the Council is at least 6 years old — I think only John Lanni and Paula McFarland have been on the Council since then. And Paula’s not running again, so I wonder just what “lingering hostility” Mario would face.

    — Regionalizing school district functions is an old idea that has never gone anywhere. I don’t see any chance that this will change. The idea of a foundation to raise money for equipment is interesting, though I wonder how this would amount to fiscal savings, as it might require new administrative costs.

    Here’s the link:

  17. If I recall, the Carlino “feud” started in 2000 when the party chair, Mike Sepe, dropped Mario to third on the ballot in favor of John Nardolillo. That move was the result of the CC endorsing Nardolillo over then incumbent Bob Butte, who had the temerity to vote against something (memory fails me on the issue) “important” to then Mayor O’Leary. Carlino and then Councilman McAlister supported Butte and ran as a “ticket” (Carlino, McAlister, Butte) for the three open slots on the At-Large CC ballot. Butte came in forth. Then it’s up to the party chairs to decide where to position each of the candidates on the general election ballot. Sepe chose to put Nardolillo first, John Mancini second and Mario third. Diane Golini Salema, then w/ the Board of Canvassers, wanted to put the candidates in the order of finish in the primary, which would have placed the order Mancini, Carlino and Nardolillo. Litigation ensued, Sepe won his point (with support from his republican counterpart) Carlino was placed on the bottom of the ballot (the least desirable spot) but prevailed anyway.

    Now, fast forward two years – the city is heading into the financial dumpster, John O’Leary is mayor, Joe DeLorenzo is CC President and Dave Hershey is CC vice-president. Carlino and three other council people attempt a coup that would have displaced the Council officers with Carlino (Pres) and O’Hara (Vice pres). The reasons behind the putative coup d’etat dissipated and everything reverted to the status quo ante. Carlino then decided to run (unendorsed) for the state senate, which he narrowly lost to Bea Lanzi.

    That’s the brief history.

  18. Geoff:

    Thanks for another excellent discourse on a past episode in our fair city.

    Now, here’s the question: What will this “feud” have to do with Carlino’s potential run this year? Mike Sepe strikes me as a person who can let an old grudge die. And as I said above, few of those people are in the mix anymore (I particularly recall the Nardollilo defeat in the ’02 race).

    Not to mention, Sepe has already made the point that it’s fundraising that has already — and will continue to — make a big difference in who’s the ultimate Dem candidate. I don’t see Sepe sandbagging a Carlino run over a 6-year-old spat.

  19. Jesse,

    I agree. If I were to hazard a guess, my guess would be that Mike would rather see Carlino as the candidate than either of the other two – if not for personal then for political reasons. But, I’m pretty certain that any old grudge between Mike and Mario (sounds kind of like a morning drive time FM radio show) has long passed.

    I think Mario’s the odds on favorite to get the endorsement assuming that he can work out work/family issues that are attendant in any run of this sort. Historically, he’s very strong in the 5th, which is a major plus in any city-wide race. He also has successful experience running at-large, so he should be able to put a campaign together. He’ll probably have enthusiastic support from many quarters of the city. I think he’s the democrats’ best chance against Alan Fung in November.

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