PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Spending in the Ward 3 special election will likely top $30,000 before the end of the summer, but the five candidates seeking to replace recalled Councilman Kevin Jackson aren’t expected to rival the most expensive council campaigns in recent history.
Eyewitness News reviewed hundreds of campaign finance reports filed by every Providence City Council candidate since 2006. Here’s a look at the most costly races.
(Note: All reports were filed with the R.I. Board of Elections. Independent expenditures were not included.)
2006: Ward 5 – Incumbent Patrick Butler (D) VS Michael Solomon (D)
Amount spent by candidates: $94,685
This wasn’t the first time Councilman Butler and Solomon, the owner of Wes’ Rib House, squared off. The two rivals and future Democratic City Committee Chairman Ken Richardson ran in a three-way primary in 1998 to succeed retiring Council President Evelyn Fargnoli. Although Solomon was the endorsed candidate, Butler squeaked by in an upset. But Solomon returned eight years later, spending nearly $68,000 between July 1, 2006 and the end of that year in a heads-up primary against Butler. A two-term incumbent, Butler spent just under $27,000. Solomon won the rematch by more than 100 votes, with Butler unable to overcome what the Providence Journal called a “barrage of negative advertising.” Solomon easily defeated independent Laura Archambault in the general, but Archambault’s $9,000 in spending meant total expenditures in Ward 5 in 2006 actually topped $100,000. Of course, Solomon went on to serve two terms on the council, becoming the president in 2010 before falling to Jorge Elorza in the 2014 Democratic mayoral primary.
2006: Ward 9 – Incumbent Miguel Luna (D) VS Kas DeCarvalho (D), Hector Jose (D), and Wellington Garcia (D)
Amount spent by candidates: $79,338
Ward 9 has become known for competitive Democratic primaries with multiple candidates; in fact, when Luna died in 2011, six Democrats and a Republican ran to fill the seat. By 2006, Luna was just finishing his first term on the council and facing a challenge from DeCarvalho, a well-respected attorney who launched his campaign after the council gave him a hard time when then-Mayor David Cicilline appointed him to the city Zoning Board. Jose, who has always been capable of winning a few hundred votes, and Garcia were the other opponents. Both DeCarvalho ($31,000) and Jose ($24,000) reported spending more than the incumbent, but Luna ($23,000) managed to hold on to his seat by 80 votes over DeCarvalho.
2006: Ward 1 – Seth Yurdin (D) VS Ethan Ris (D)
Amount spent by candidates: $55,420
In the race to replace the last non-Democrat elected to the City Council (the Green Party’s David Segal), Yurdin squared off with Ris, a teacher who was endorsed by then-Mayor David Cicilline. But Yurdin, an attorney, had the support of Segal and spent about $32,000 in 2006 to become the councilman from Ward 1. (Yurdin easily defeated a Republican and an independent in the general.) Yurdin would go on to win re-election in 2010 and become the council majority leader under Solomon. He won re-election again in 2014, but is no longer a member of council leadership. If he runs for re-election and wins in 2018, he’ll be term-limited in 2022.
2014: Ward 5 – Jo-Ann Ryan (D) VS Patrick Butler (D), Grant Metts (D) and Jeff Angelo (D)
Amount spent by candidates: $50,333
The folks in Elmhurst and Mount Pleasant love a good council race and they got another one a few years ago. With Michael Solomon running for mayor, four Democrats stepped up to run for the open seat. The eventual winner, Jo-Ann Ryan, scored a convincing victory over Butler, the former councilman, with Angelo and Metts trailing far behind. The battle between Ryan and Butler was heated, with Ryan securing the support of Solomon and Butler backing Buddy Cianci. Ryan ended up spending about $17,000, with Butler spending $11,000. Both candidates were outspent by Angelo, who reported $19,000 in expenditures. Ryan easily defeated Republican Tyler Rowley in the general election.
2006: Ward 11 – Incumbent Balbina Young (D) VS Jose Brito (D)
Amount spent by candidates: $48,594
As you can tell, 2006 was a big year for City Council election spending. In Ward 11, longtime Councilwoman Young beat Brito by more than 130 votes, but she still needed to spend about $34,000 to get the job done. Brito, who was the president of the Greater Providence Merchants Association, reported spending just under $15,000. Young would serve just one more term on the council before moving to Florida. She reemerged during the 2014 mayoral race, endorsing Buddy Cianci for mayor and then landed a job with the City Council the following year. She did not stay long, leaving her position after about a year.
2006: Ward 4 – Incumbent Carol Romano (D) VS Nick Narducci (D)
Amount spent by candidates: $44,740
In one of the many upsets in 2006, youth sports coach Narducci stunned Romano, who had served on the council for a decade. Narducci was formerly a member of Romano’s ward committee, but spent several years building his campaign against her, according to a Providence Journal report from the time. Romano spent close to $30,000 to try to keep the seat, but Narducci’s $15,000 and a successful mail ballot operation put him over the top. Narducci remains on the council and is eligible to serve one more term if he wins re-election next year.
2010: Ward 15 – Incumbent Josephine DiRuzzo (D) VS Sabina Matos
Amount spent by candidates: $37,833
The City Council elections in 2010 were clearly overshadowed by a competitive three-way primary for mayor, but there was a good race in Ward 15. In a rematch from 2006, the Dominican-born Matos unseated DiRuzzo by more than 100 votes. Matos spent around $15,000 and DiRuzzo reported spending more than $22,000. Matos would win re-election in 2014 and is currently the acting council president. She is eligible to serve one more term if she runs for re-election in 2018.
2010: Ward 14 – David Salvatore (D) VS Phil McKendall (D) and Anthony Fagundes
Amount spent by candidates: $35,086
In the race to replace retiring Council President Peter Mancini, Salvatore spent just under $19,000 on his victory. McKendall, a well-liked former restaurateur who went on to work on the City Council staff and then launch a line of meatball mix, spent $15,000 to finish second. Salvatore went on to become chairman of the Special Committee on Ways and Means and easily won re-election in 2014. He is no longer a member of council leadership and is eligible to serve one more term if he wins re-election next year.
Honorable mention: Ward 13 Councilman John Lombardi in 2006
Lombardi, who would go on to run for mayor in 2010 and then become a state representative two years later, was in the fight of his life to keep hold of his council presidency in 2006. Although he easily disposed of his Democratic primary opponent, Lombardi still reported spending $88,500 throughout the year. One would imagine he spent a lot trying to keep hold of his leadership post. In the end, Lombardi would lose the race for president to Councilman Peter Mancini.
Where Ward 3 stands
With the special Democratic primary set for Wednesday, attorney Daniel Chaika and Brown University employee Nirva LaFortune have each reported spending just over $11,000. A third Democrat, School Board Member Mark Santow, has reported spending about $4,500. It’s safe to assume each of the candidates will have spent more when all is said and done, but we won’t know how much until later this year. The winner of the primary will take on Republican Dave Lallier and independent Chris Reynolds in the general election next month. (Lallier and Reynolds aren’t required to report how much they’ve spent until July 19.)