Cranston mayoral debate chock full of fireworks, personal attacks

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Patience is at a premium in the Cranston mayoral race.

Frustration and accusations were the hallmark of a 30-minute debate between incumbent Republican Allan Fung and Democratic challenger at WPRI 12’s East Providence studios.

During the campaign both candidates have raised the issue of trust; Fung painted Sepe as a Democratic Party “boss” who would take care of his friends over the taxpayers if he were elected mayor. Sepe was previously the leader of the city Democratic Party.

“We can’t afford to go back to old style politics, political rhetoric and fiscal mismanagement,” said Fung.

Sepe accused Fung of ineffective leadership that has cost taxpayers “millions” in legal fees, though Fung questioned his math.

“Allan Fung is incapable of giving us anything except more cover-ups, deception and more political interference that cost taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees and political settlements,” Sepe said. “We cannot afford another four years of absentee mayor making political decisions based on his run for governor instead on what is right for taxpayers of Cranston”

Sepe came after Fung for refusing to sign a pledge promising to finish out his entire terms as mayor. Fung has long been rumored to be interested in running again for governor in 2018 after a failed bid in 2014.

“I asked him to sign a pledge, ‘will he serve as mayor for next four years?’” Sepe said turning to Fung. “But you avoided the question, mayor.”

Fung responded “I didn’t avoid the question.”

“The only focus that I have is serving mayor of Cranston,” Fung said. “I have made that commitment clear.”

Sepe then wanted to know why Fung attended a fundraiser for Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence in Newport R.I. earlier in the year.

“Were you trying to solicit funds to run for governor?” Sepe shouted.

“Give me a break, Mike,” Fung said.

Both candidates accused each other of supporting various tax hikes over the years.

“We had to have an increase because the Republican administration had a $12.5 million deficit,” Sepe said. “You voted for one of the biggest tax increases ever in the history.”

Fung shot back “you’ve sat in this chair and defended the policies of your hand-picked cronies.”

On campaign finance, Sepe was questioned why he has accepted nearly two dozen campaign contributions from people who list their employer as “The City of Cranston,” when he had pledged not to do so during an October 2015 appearance on Newsmakers.

“That’s a mistake that I did,” Sepe said. “I should have watched that very carefully.”

Fung also accepted donations from city employees, but had never made a pledge not to.

“Many of the individuals are donating to me because they believe in what we are doing for Cranston,” he said.

On road repairs, Sepe floated the idea of having councilman submit a list of “10 to 15” roads that are in need of repair to the mayor’s office.

“I think they would have the city engineer take a look at [the roads] and put them on a list,” Sepe said. “That’s how we would fix these roads: on need and not political preference.”

Fung said “that’s political cronyism, that’s not based on engineering science.”

Both candidates were against the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Fung was against driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, Sepe supported the idea.

On body cameras for police officers, Sepe was for them while Fung said he wanted to study the issue.

Tim White ( ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook