At fundraiser, Buddy Cianci warns of ‘negative campaign’

Buddy Cianci behind the microphone of WPRO shortly before making announcement about whether or not he'll run for Providence mayor.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former Providence Mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. told a group of supporters Monday that he’s expecting a long, “negative campaign” from well-funded opponents in the coming months as he seeks a return to City Hall.

Cianci’s comments came during a $1,000-a-head fundraiser at Al Forno Restaurant on South Main Street. The 73-year-old independent drew applause from several dozen donors and supporters as he laid out his vision for Providence during an 11-minute speech, but he also warned that an independent expenditure group is preparing to “go against us big time.”

“I think that there’s a certain group of elitists that would like not to see me be mayor,” Cianci told the crowd. “Well I see it differently. I think the people have to be represented as I did for 22 years and made this city a lot better than what it was when I came into office.”

Cianci, who served as mayor for parts of four decades between 1975 and 2002 but also resigned twice following felony corruption convictions, is running against Republican Daniel Harrop and the winner of the Democratic primary between City Council President Michael Solomon, Brett Smiley, Jorge Elorza, Chris Young and Reinaldo Catone. Incumbent Mayor Angel Taveras is running for governor.

Although he didn’t mention her by name, Cianci’s comments about negative campaigning were likely directed at former state Sen. Myrth York, who told that she resigned as co-chair of Smiley’s campaign to “focus my attention on efforts to highlight what’s at stake for Providence in this coming election.”

York hasn’t stated exactly what role she intends to play in the mayor’s race, but one option is to launch an independent expenditure group to target one or more candidates. Solomon and Elorza have called on Smiley to sign a “People’s Pledge” to curb outside spending in the race, but Smiley has said he wants a ban on city employee contributions to be part of the agreement.

During his speech, Cianci rattled off a list of accomplishments and rankings the city earned during his tenure as mayor, making the case that Providence needs a self-esteem boost. He said those who advocate for a “new Providence” forget that the city has been dealt with a massive structural deficit, high unemployment and high taxes in recent years.

“Let those who say that the new Providence is better than the old Providence, I don’t accept the new Providence the way it’s being handled right now,” Cianci said.

Cianci said he expected to raise $100,000 Monday, on top of the approximately $150,000 he raised at another fundraiser last month. His campaign finance chairperson is Dee Dee Whitman, a prominent political fund-raiser from the city’s East Side.

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

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