Cianci kicks off campaign for Providence mayor

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former Providence Mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. launched his campaign to win back his old job in earnest Wednesday, pledging to bring “new ideas and new vision” to Rhode Island’s capital city.

Cianci also announced that his campaign will be co-chaired by City Councilman Kevin Jackson and community activist Leah Williams Metts during a more press conference at his headquarters on Broad Street. Metts previously supported Democrat Brett Smiley’s failed campaign for mayor. Cianci is running as an independent.

“I’m running for mayor because as I look around the city I love, I see we’re on the wrong track,” Cianci said during a short speech before taking questions from reporters. Cianci said his race with Democratic primary winner Jorge Elorza and Republican Daniel Harrop will focus on issues rather than personalities.

That won’t be an easy task.

Cianci’s reign over Providence spanned parts of four decades between 1975 and 2002, but two previous stints as mayor ended with felony convictions. He served 4 ½ years in federal prison after he was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy in 2002. Along the way, Cianci was widely credited with taking the lead on projects like the Providence Place mall and the moving of the rivers, which helped revitalize the city’s downtown.

Elorza, a former Housing Court judge, ran up big victories of the city’s vote-rich East Side to defeat City Council President Michael Solomon and perennial candidate Chris Young in the Democratic primary. He spent much of the summer making the case that he was the candidate best positioned to defeat Cianci in the general election, citing his support on the East Side and in the Latino community.

Cianci dismissed the perception that Elorza’s base makes him the favorite in the race. He said he was prepared to take on both Elorza and Solomon.

“It doesn’t make any difference,” Cianci said. “This campaign is going to be based on vision and based on issues. It’s going to be based basically on who can convince the people of the city of Providence who has the experience and the leadership to make this city what it ought to be.”

Cianci likely starts the race with a financial edge over Elorza, who has just $77,294 cash on hand as of Sept. 1, according to a WPRI.com review of campaign finance reports filed with the Rhode Island Board of Elections. Elorza figures to get a boost from local Democrats and national supporters in the coming weeks.

The two candidates will run in the first competitive general election for Providence mayor since 1994, when Cianci defeated independent Paul Jabour. Cianci ran unopposed in 1998 and Democrats David Cicilline (2002 and 2006) and Angel Taveras (2010) won their respective races with more than 80% of the vote.

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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