Solomon, Smiley launch mayoral campaign commercials

Providence City Hall
Providence City Hall

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Step aside gubernatorial candidates. The contenders for Providence mayor want a piece of the action.

City Council President Michael Solomon and former Water Supply Board Chairman Brett Smiley, two of the five Democrats vying to lead Rhode Island’s capital city, are set to go on air with their first campaign commercials Friday, offering an early glimpse at how they plan to pitch themselves to voters this summer.

City Hall is open because Mayor Angel Taveras is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor after just one term in Providence. The other Democrats in the race include former Housing Court Judge Jorge Elorza, East Side businessman Lorne Adrain and perennial candidate Chris Young. Dr. Daniel Harrop is the lone Republican in the race. Former Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. has said he is also mulling a return to politics.

Solomon’s 60-second, cable-only spot attempts to capitalize on the popularity of Taveras, making the case that the two worked closely to help save Providence from a “fiscal disaster” over the last four years. Titled “Tested by Fire. Ready to Lead.,” the commercial highlights Solomon’s plan to renovate Providence’s crumbling schools and touts the restaurant owner’s record for job creation as well as his efforts to add more officers to the city’s police force.

Smiley’s 30-second commercial takes a more humorous approach, capitalizing on the lengthy list of policies the 35-year-old has pitched since announcing his candidacy late last year. “Man with a Plan” begins with a fifth grade version of Smiley planning out recess and continues to him proposing marriage to his husband Jim DeRentis using a PowerPoint. DeRentis calls him “the most organized person I’ve ever met.” The spot concludes with Smiley listing off his plans for education, job creation, taxing guns, transportation, economic development and the environment.

Solomon and Smiley are the first candidates outside the ones running for governor to go on air with commercials, an attempt to build name recognition before the market is flooded with ads during an election season that will include races for all five general offices. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed as well as Congressmen James Langevin and David Cicilline are also up for re-election, but none are expected to face well-funded opponents.

In the mayor’s race, resources will likely be a factor. Solomon has already loaned himself nearly $300,000 since last summer and reported $600,711 cash on hand as of March 31, according to filings with the R.I. Board of Elections. Smiley has raised more through individual contributions than any other candidate since entering the race, but his $191,283 war chest trailed Solomon’s and Elorza’s after the first quarter of 2014.

Elorza reported $216,632 cash on hand and Adrain had $150,479 in the bank as of March 31. Neither candidate has said when they plan to air commercials. Young does not have an open campaign account and Republican Harrop reported $108,675, most of which came through a personal loan last year.

The primary is scheduled for Sept. 9.

Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan

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