Congressional delegation holds fundraiser to help Elorza beat Cianci in mayor’s race

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A who’s who list of Rhode Island’s political establishment turned out to support Democrat Jorge Elorza at a fundraiser Thursday, pledging to do whatever it takes to help the 37-year-old former Housing Court judge defeat Buddy Cianci in the race for Providence mayor.

The $100-a-head event, hosted by U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Reps. James Langevin and David Cicilline, was held at the Marriott hotel on Orms Street in Providence. Nearly 200 people – including a lone Cianci tracker – turned out to hear each member of the all-Democratic federal congressional delegation tout Elorza’s credentials to lead the capital city.

“There is a reason that the entire congressional delegation has come together around this race,” Whitehouse told the crowd. “Rarely has a community had a starker choice about its future than our capital city faces now. And we are here because we are choosing the path toward the light.”

No member of the congressional delegation mentioned Cianci directly by name, but all made it clear they do not wish to see the former mayor return to City Hall. Cianci served as mayor for parts of four decades between 1975 and 2002, but was twice forced to resign following felony convictions. Whitehouse told reporters he is concerned the city would be a “laughing stock” on the national level if Cianci wins the race.

Elorza, Cianci and Republican Daniel Harrop are vying to succeed incumbent Mayor Angel Taveras, who is leaving City Hall after one term following his loss in the Democratic primary for governor. Taveras was not in attendance Thursday, but he has said he will do “everything I can” to help Elorza win the race.

A WPRI 12/Providence Journal poll released last week showed Cianci holding a slight lead at 38%, with Elorza in second at 32% and Harrop in third with just 6%. One in voters – 21% – said they were still undecided.

Whitehouse is the only member of the delegation who is not up for re-election this year, but Reed, Langevin and Cicilline are all considered strong favorites over their little-known Republican opponents.

“This is a young man who is committed not just to sitting in City Hall, but to being in every neighborhood, to sharing prosperity and hope and progress and opportunity,” Reed said.

Langevin praised Elorza’s commitment to investing in education and infrastructure and said he will do “great things to improve the quality of life and the business community in Providence.”

“I believe that he has the right vision, the right plan for moving Providence in a very positive direction,” Langevin said.

Cicilline, who served two terms as Providence mayor between 2003 and 2010, appointed Elorza to the Housing Court in 2010. He said Elorza has a “very bold vision” for the city, particularly around improving education and transparency in government. After the event, Cicilline told reporters Elorza is “just what we need” to move Providence forward.

“I see in him this incredible passion for the city, a real understanding of what working Providence residents are struggling with,” Cicilline said. “He’s set out a commitment to really take the city in a new and exciting direction.”

Elorza’s campaign said it expected to raise about $20,000 from the fundraiser. He had $77,294 in his campaign account as of Sept. 1, eight days before the Democratic primary. All three of the candidates are scheduled to file another round of campaign finance reports Oct. 7.

During his brief remarks, Elorza joked that while Cianci is undefeated in mayoral races, he’s lost his two appearances in front of judge, referring to Cianci’s 1984 no contest plea to assaulting his ex-wife’s lover and his 2002 federal conviction for running “a criminal enterprise” as mayor. He served 4 ½ years in prison for the latter offense.

Elorza said the next 33 days will decide who the mayor of Providence will be. He urged the crowd to tell their friends, neighbors and co-workers to support his vision for a “new direction of honest leadership” in City Hall.

“Let’s make him 0-3,” Elorza said, drawing cheers.

The fundraiser came on the same day that the Young Democrats of Rhode Island launched a separate Providence chapter to help Elorza in the mayoral race. The group met at Roger Williams Park and later knocked on doors to show their support for Elorza.

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

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