The Dist. 26 State Senate race has been punctuated with numerous press releases and strong words being passed between candidates Frank Lombardi and Sean Gately.
But voters will get a chance to hear both candidates tackle the issues and debate one another face to face twice in the coming weeks.
On Oct. 17, Lombardi and Gately will face off at the Santa Maria de Prata Society on Walnut Grove Avenue for a public debate. It will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Lombardi challeged Gately to attend that debate. Gately, in an e-mail message, said he was not contacted by the Lombardi campaign about the debate, although "I will gladly debate him."
Last night, Lombardi said he has also accepted Gately's challenge to debate on a business talk show on 790AM on Oct. 18 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Voters will be particularly interested to hear the two candidates go head to head in what has become one of the more contentious local races.
Gately has been aggressively attacking Lombardi in recent weeks, more recently for campaign contributions Lombardi received from the school bus driver's union and one of Lombardi's friends, Ben Scungio — a lawyer who has represented the School Committee. Before that, Gately has accused Lombardi of poor leadership for his role on the School Committee in regards to the recent ban on father-daughter dances, a review of the policy allowing Cub Scouts to recruit in the school and accusing him of trying to block any chance at privatizing the school bus fleet, which a recent report said could save the district $8.5 million over the next decade.
"Frank Lombardi talks about proven leadership. Well, it's time to prove he is a leader, and will not be controlled by special interests," Gately said in his most recent press release.
The Lombardi camp hasn't sat idly by. Last week, Lombardi's campaign issued a release accusing Gately of misrepresenting the facts and incorrectly equating Lombardi with the entire School Committee.
“Over these past few months, our campaign theme has been answers over acrimony. I do not know much about my opponent, but it appears his campaign message is all about distorting the facts," he said. "First, Mr. Gately misrepresented the issues surrounding father daughter dances in our schools. Next, he resorted to using the cub scouts as part of his political platform. In so doing, he equates me as the Cranston School Committee. He continues to attempt to distract our teachers and administrators from the important job of educating our children."
Lombardi said he in fact is not the School Committee, but just one of "seven school committee members, all of whom devote an incredible amout of time and energy in their committment to the children of Cranston."
Lombardi said Gately's call for the School Committee to "adopt privatization" at the committee's Oct. 15 meeting is a "wild statement" that has major repercussions. The act would be illegal without any negotiations without the union and would open the city up to a lawsuit for unfair labor practices. And, he said, the entire transportation issue will be taken up tonight, Lombardi said — and there will be future meetings about it, part of "our due diligence."
"Fortunatley, Mr. Gately is not an elected official," Lombardi said.
Both men said they're looking forward to the debates.
"I welcome the opportunity to talk about issues that are important to Cranston voters because I think there's a lot at stake for our community in this election and a clear difference between the two candidates," Gately said.