PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The wide tent that covers Rhode Island’s Democratic Party was on full display Thursday when a group of veteran lawmakers endorsed Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. over party standard-bearer Jorge Elorza in the race for Providence mayor.
Cianci, running as an independent, held a press conference on Neutaconkanut Hill in the city’s Silver Lake neighborhood to roll out two dozen endorsements from current and former Democratic city councilmen and state lawmakers, including Deputy House Speaker Charlene Lima, a Cranston resident.
The group also included five sitting members of the City Council – Kevin Jackson, Michael Correia, John Igliozzi, Davian Sanchez and Terry Hassett – as well as state Reps. Ray Hull, John Carnevale and Anastasia Williams and state Sen. Frank Ciccone.
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“Most of us here share a long history of working together to rebuild Providence and we made significant improvements,” Cianci said before listing off several of his favorite actions taken during his 21 years as mayor between 1975 and 2002, including the building of the Providence Place mall and WaterFire.
The vast majority of Cianci’s endorsements came from people who were already publicly supporting his candidacy, but Hull only confirmed his support this week. A Providence police sergeant who used to work as Cianci’s police driver, Hull supported Democrat Brett Smiley in the primary. He was livid when Smiley dropped out the race to back Elorza. Cianci joked that some Democrats thought Hull was a spy when he endorsed Smiley.
“That secret will remain with Raymond and I,” Cianci quipped.
Hull, Jackson and former Councilwoman Balbina Young are considered a crucial part of helping Cianci secure votes in the African-American community, an oft-overlooked part of Providence’s electorate. Young clashed with Cianci for years while she was on the council, but hired her to work on the campaign last week.
“She’s on our side now,” Cianci said.
The press conference was held in the heart of Ward 7, once the epicenter of Democratic politics in Providence. Vincent Igliozzi, the councilman’s father, is chairman of the community’s ward committee, which backed Elorza in the primary and is supporting Cianci in the general election. Igliozzi created the 7th Ward PAC, which paid for a Cianci poll before he entered the race earlier this year.
The 7th Ward has long been part of Cianci’s base, but the percentage of non-Hispanic white residents living in Silver Lake fell from 89% to 19% between 1990 and 2010, according to U.S. Census figures. Elorza also lives in Silver Lake, but lost Ward 7 to City Council President Michael Solomon by 105 votes in the Democratic primary.
Cianci scoffed at the idea that he is seeking to rally the rest of the city against the vote-rich East Side, which overwhelmingly supported Elorza in the primary. He said a handful of wealthy East Side residents are supporting Elorza because the Democrat represents the status quo.
Cianci also received endorsements from former Councilmen Philip A. Almagno, Josephine DiRuzzo, Carol Romano; Balbina Young, Peter Mancini and Patrick Butler. Former legislators supporting him include Joanne Giannini, Stephen Smith and Robert Kells.
Elorza has six endorsements from sitting City Council members, including Seth Yurdin, Sam Zurier, Nick Narducci, Michael Solomon, Bryan Principe and Sabina Matos. He has been endorsed by Reps. Grace Diaz, Edith Ajello, Chris Blazejewski, Maria Cimini, Scott Slater and Sens. Juan Pichardo and Gayle Goldin.
Republican Daniel Harrop is the third candidate in the race. The election is Nov. 4.