City Council members pick sides in Providence mayor’s race

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – All but one member of the Providence City Council has picked a horse in the race for mayor, with the majority of the 15-person body backing City Council President Michael Solomon over his Democratic opponent Jorge Elorza and independent Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr.

Only Ward 6 Councilman Michael Correia, who previously endorsed Democrat Brett Smiley before he dropped out of the race last month, has said he’ll wait until after next week’s primary to make a final decision about whom he’ll support to replace one-term Mayor Angel Taveras as he seeks the governor’s office.

The winner of the Democratic primary between Solomon, Elorza and Chris Young will take on Cianci and Republican Daniel Harrop on Nov. 4. Providence hasn’t seen a competitive general election since 1994, when Cianci defeated Democrat Paul Jabour, who is now a state senator.

Solomon (Ward 5) is trying to become the first council member since Joe Paolino in 1984 to win the mayor’s office. In 1990, then-Councilman Andrew Annaldo (Ward 14) won the Democratic primary, but Cianci prevailed in the general election. Four years ago, Ward 13 Councilman John Lombardi finished a distant second behind Taveras in a three-way Democratic primary.

A member of the council since 2007 and president since 2011, Solomon has spent the better part of this year methodically rolling out endorsements from the city’s political class. His supporters on the council include: Seth Yurdin (Ward 1); Sam Zurier (Ward 2); Nick Narducci (Ward 4); Wilbur Jennings (Ward 8); Carmen Castillo (Ward 9); Luis Aponte (Ward 10); Terrance Hassett (Ward 12); David Salvatore (Ward 14); and Sabina Matos (Ward 15). That support landed him the overwhelming endorsement of the Providence Democratic City Committee earlier this year.

Zurier, who represents a high-turnout East Side ward that Elorza is expected to carry, was one of Solomon’s earliest supporters. In a letter to his constituents this week, Zurier made the case that while Solomon is “not blessed with either academic distinction or a silver tongue,” he is the most qualified candidate to lead the cash-strapped capital city. He credited the council president with helping the city avoid filing for bankruptcy.

“Providence needs a mayor who has a clear sense of fiscal discipline,” Zurier wrote. “Providence needs a mayor with relevant and productive experience that will provide insight for wise decisions and fewer errors. Providence needs a mayor who, when he makes mistakes, acknowledges them and learns from them.”

Across the city, the endorsements from Jennings, Castillo and Aponte mean Solomon has the support of council members from three of Providence’s four South Side wards. Aponte, the first Latino to win a seat on the City Council, said he endorsed Solomon because of his commitment to improving all of Providence’s neighborhoods.

“The next mayor needs to focus on rebuilding our city’s middle class by creating jobs, rebuilding our schools and developing affordable housing,” Aponte said. “I am confident that Michael will do just that. I am impressed by his vision to invest $250 million over 10 years to rebuild our city schools and create 2,000 good jobs in the process. We need this kind of big vision to move our capital city forward.”

Elorza, a former Housing Court judge making his first run for public office, has come on strong in recent weeks after Smiley dropped out of the race to support him. He picked up his first City Council endorsement this week when Ward 13 Councilman Bryan Principe pledged his support during a press conference on Federal Hill.

“Forward thinking plans like this are among the reasons I’ve chosen to endorse Jorge Elorza for mayor,” Principe said. “Jorge recognizes that public safety is as much about building up our communities as it is about enforcing our laws. That kind of intuitive understanding of the challenges facing our city is why I believe Jorge is the right man to move Providence forward.”

Elorza, who lives in Silver Lake, also has the support of Ward 7 Democratic Committee, which is controlled by Vincent Igliozzi, the father of Councilman John Igliozzi. While they are supporting Elorza in the primary, the Igliozzi family has pledged its support to Cianci in the general election.

In addition to Councilman Igliozzi, Cianci has also picked up endorsements from Ward 3 Councilman Kevin Jackson and Ward 11 Councilman Davian Sanchez. Jackson, who was one of Taveras’ early supporters in 2010, is serving as a co-chairman of Cianci’s campaign.

“I think he would be best because he’s willing to make bold steps and make moves that will move the city in the right direction,” Jackson told WPRI.com in June after Cianci entered the race. “I don’t think the city has moved anywhere in four years.”

For all mayoral candidates, having the support of a City Council member isn’t necessarily a predictor of success in that councilor’s ward. In 2010, Solomon backed Steven Costantino for mayor, but Costantino lost the 5th Ward by nearly 300 votes and finished third in the Democratic primary.

Still, Solomon said he’ll take all the support he can get.

“We have a broad base of support in all sections of the city of Providence, not just one section,” Solomon said.

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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