slides: Providence Mayor Race: Is Cianci the Game Changer?
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Recent developments however, including potential candidates Victor Capellan and Councilwoman Sabina Matos pulling out of contention for the Providence Mayoral race, have people talking that given the circumstances, another contender might still be up for consideration -- two-time Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci.
"Cianci would be a game-changer if he entered the mayor’s race. He would bring some definition to what now is a very crowded field. There are a number of possible candidates, but no one is a clear frontrunner at this point," said Darrell West, Vice President of The Brookings Institute and former head of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown.
Of the longest-serving Mayor of Providence, who was in office from 1975 to 1984 and again from 1991 to 2002, West said, "There would be tremendous media and public interest if Cianci ran. It would turn this into a high-profile campaign. It is not clear what will be the deciding factor. It would be very different if Cianci is in the race or not."
So if Cianci does decide to toss his hat in the ring, what does that mean for the race?
"I think it would depend on how he jumps in," said Providence City Council member Luis Aponte. "Does Buddy jump in as a Democrat? It would put the primary in a tailspin."
"He's been masterful in winning the 3 or 4 way parlay," said Aponte. Of deciding to go as a Democrat, when he's won first as a Republican, then an independent, Aponte quipped, "It completes the cycle -- he won as an R, he won as an I....why not go D?"
Aponte surmised that if the former Mayor does decide to jump in, any decision will be made as a matter of political expediency.
"Would it help him most by running in a crowded primary?" asked Aponte. "I think at the end of the day he'll make that call himself, and it won't be an uninformed decision. If he sees a path to victory, he's nobody's fool. If he doesn't have a clear shot, he won't go."
Rhode Island College Associate Professor of Communication Val Endress, however, thought that current circumstances in the city would preclude Buddy from mounting a third victory to reclaim City Hall.
"The demographics of Providence have changed significantly, from the Irish and Italian to a increasingly Hispanic population," said Endress. "Because of that, I think that Buddy's time has passed. I don't see him as having an influence in that race."
"He's had a record of picking candidates as a talk show host, and he hasn't been particularly effective in galvanizing people towards his position," said Endress. "He didn't want Ciciliine to win, nor Angel."
Aponte similarly thought that changes in the city's dynamics would play a role -- but that Cianci would be well aware of that.
"Providence has changed drastically since he was last in office. The demographics have changed significantly. There's a different level of civic engagement. I think Buddy understands that," said Aponte.
And Aponte points to what would clearly come up during a Buddy run -- his track record.
"There's a fair amount of Providence's history associated with Buddy -- good or bad. You can hang your hat on the bad stuff, but you couldn't do it without bringing up the good."
Current Mayoral contenders include such names as Democrats Brett Smiley, who's formed an exploratory committee to run, City Council President Michael Solomon, who has nearly $500,000 in his war chest, Jorge Elorza, who recently stepped down from his position as Providence Housing Court Judge, sending a strong signal regarding his potential campaign intentions; and Republican candidate Dan Harrop.
Other names that are being talked about include, but are not limited to John Lombardi, Jeff Padwa, John Kelly, Lorne Adrain, Gordon Fox, Juan Pichardo and David Segal.
Of the candidates that have sent the strongest signals, Aponte said of the group that they have been "equivocal" of their candidacy.
"Everyone so far has provided the caveat that if Angel runs for Governor, they'll go," said Aponte.
He continues, "The stated candidates appear to be Angel 2.0, instead of stating their own views" of the Democratic field. "They're not necessarily state stating their own positions, what makes them different. They're running to be the next Angel, not the next Mayor."
"How would a Solomon administration be different? And Elorza one? Would they make the same decisions that this Administration has made? Would they have decided to close down the Davey Lopes pool?" asked Aponte.
Endress thought however it would behoove candidates to align themselves with the current Mayor.
"Even if Angel runs for Governor, as he's popular, people view him as competent. What's interesting is that because he's possibly going to run in an even higher profile race, the voters will naturally compare the candidates to Taveras. His image would constantly be there," she said.
"You're not going to be able to run a campaign on changing the way the Mayor's office has done business, said Endress. "And I have a feeling that voters will look for a similar candidate to what Angel was -- someone that will surprise them, but that doesn't represent the establishment."
Of the current candidate field -- and those not yet declared -- Aponte said, "Depending on the day, there are all sorts of rumors about whose in, who's out."
"It's an interesting political time," said Aponte. "If Brett Smiley becomes the standard bearer for the East Side, that bodes well for the rest of the candidates."
"Having key insiders would help, but he's unknown and untested outside those confines. He doesn't have city-wide recognition at this time," continued Aponte.
"Cicilline was successful because he was able to put together an East Side/ South side combination. That coalition, I'm not sure anyone can replicate," he furthered.
Aponte noted that another race would also be shaping up -- that being to replace Council Chairman Solomon.
"I imagine over the next few weeks and months, depending on what happens, the race for who will succeed council President will percolate," said Aponte. And that will have some angle.
While some are surmising as to whether or not the former Mayor will spice up the race -- Cianci did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday -- others say it's still too early yet for any type of forecasting.
Cianci's fellow radio host John DePetro told GoLocal, "It is too early. First, we need [Mayor Angel Taveras] to make it official he is not running. Second, I would like to see who he would be supporting He is very popular and I think his support would be crucial. It is just too early."
Buddy Cianci ran as the "good government" reform candidate in 1974 against then machine Democrat Joe Doorley.
Doorley was in the midst of a political split with his fellow Democrat Larry
As Providence College's Carl Antonucci writes:
The end of the Doorley era marked the end of Democratic Party dominance in Providence. The political split between Doorley and his Public Works Director, Lawrence P. “Larry” McGarry destroyed one of the most powerful machines in the history of the city of Providence. The conflict enabled Republican, Vincent A. Cianci, Jr., to win the mayoral election of November 5, 1974, by the slim margin of 722 votes.
Cianci runs for Governor
In 1980, Cianci decided he was ready for a bigger stage and decided to run for Governor.
This is a race that is often forgotten and no one wants to forget more than Cianci.
His effort to unseat Democrat J. Joseph Garrahy went sour and he was defeated by a margin of nearly 3-1.
Election Results 1980
Cianci: 106,729 (26%)
Garrahy: 299,174 (73%)
Cianci in 1982
1982 was suppose to be the year the Democrats regained City Hall. Cianci's ability to manage the City was in question, he was damaged by the failed effort to win the Governorship, and he was going to be primaried by GOP stalwart Fred Lippitt.
Cianci moved to run as an independent and the three way race split his opponents.
Election Results 1982
Cianci in 1990
Cianci left office after pleading nolo to a series of charges and went on air on the radio. When Providence Mayor Joe Paolino announced he was going to run for Governor, Cianci pounced.
Again, garnering the opportunity to run in another 3-way field, Cianci split the vote between Democratic Councilman Andrew Annaldo and Fred Lippitt who was now running for the third-time. Lippitt was the tough luck loser to Paolino in the special election when Cianci resigned.
Election results in 1990
Cianci in 1994
By 1994, the City was on a bit of a rebound and Cianci was taking credit for every bit of the recovery. Much of it was planned and developed by Paolino.
Cianci faced Democrat Paul Jabour - who ran as an independent just as Cianci did that year.
Election results in 1994
Today, Cianci is older and has made a place on AM Talk radio. He holds the spot as the leading political radio talk show host - a position that has lost influence in many markets.
According to a recent Federal Communications Commission report - AM radio penetrates just 15% of the market and reaches a much older demographic.
Cianci is now 72 years old and the City's population is now 38.1% Hispanic.
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- BREAKING NEWS: Providence Moves to Cut Cianci’s Pension
- Cianci to Tell His Side of the Story in New Memoir
- Cianci’s Book Goes National - Featured in POLITICO
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- NEW: Tara Granahan to Team Up With Buddy Cianci on WPRO
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- Providence Mayor Race: Is Cianci the Game Changer?
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