PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – In a brief Facebook Live video on Sunday, 46-year-old community activist Kobi Dennis announced his candidacy for mayor of Providence.
“We are running together,” Dennis told a peak audience of about 150 people. “Hand in hand, arm in arm. The old, the young, the white, black, Latino, Asian – I don’t care what you are. If you believe in change, if you want to make a difference, if you are all about collective leadership and combined intellect, you will join team Kobi for this movement.”
Dennis grew up on the South Side and served in the Navy between 1989 and 1993, according to a 2011 profile published by Providence Monthly. He is the founder of Project Night Vision, a nonprofit after-school program designed to support teenagers between 5 and 9 p.m. He has since founded Unified Solutions, a collaboration of community organizations that has a partnership with Roger Williams University. On Sunday he encouraged viewers to Google him, saying he was confident about his past.
In his video announcement, Dennis said he wrestled with the decision to run, but ultimately cemented his choice because of what he saw as an outpouring of community support for his candidacy.
“I can do this. I know. The reason why I know? Because you told me so,” he said. “I didn’t just wake up one day thinking I can lead this city, the people of Providence told me that I can lead this city.”
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Dennis is registered as a Democrat, and is the first candidate to formally announce plans to challenge incumbent Mayor Jorge Elorza next year.
Dennis filed a notice of organization with the R.I. Board of Elections on Friday afternoon, allowing him to begin fundraising. According to a filing from June 30, incumbent Elorza already has $484,000 in his campaign coffers. Dennis plans to hold a fundraiser Oct. 25.
“What I know is how to be a leader,” Dennis said in his video. “So please, help me become your leader, the official leader of the city of Providence.”
A campaign spokeswoman for Elorza told Eyewitness News they had no comment at this time. No incumbent Providence mayor has been defeated since 1974, when Democrat Joe Doorley lost to then-Republican Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr.
An earlier version of this story reported Kobi Dennis’s age incorrectly; he is 46, not 42.