Education activist Butke mulling run for mayor of Providence

Maryellen_ButkeVeteran education activist Maryellen Butke is considering a run for mayor of Providence, has learned.

“I’ve been approached by a number of people to the point where I need to take it seriously and think about it,” Butke told on Tuesday, describing herself as “incredibly flattered” to be asked. “I feel very honored,” she said.

Butke said she’s “very confident” she could raise enough money to fund a competitive campaign. “I’m not concerned about that,” she said.

Butke ran in the Senate District 3 Democratic primary last September to replace retiring Sen. Rhoda Perry, losing 57% to 43% to Gayle Goldin, Perry’s handpicked successor. Goldin had the vocal support of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras in that race, while Butke had the quiet backing of Treasurer Gina Raimondo.

Butke, a Providence College graduate, is best-known for lobbying to change K-12 education policy in ways that frequently put her at odds with teachers unions, most recently as executive director of the nonprofit Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now (RI-CAN), and said education would be a key issue for her.

A growing number of people are considering a bid for mayor of Providence amid growing signs that Taveras will run for governor in 2014 rather than seek a second term. Butke – who lives on the East Side and is hosting a big-name fundraiser Wednesday night to benefit same-sex marriage advocates – said she wants to see who else jumps into the race.

“It doesn’t have to be me at all,” she said. “I just want to make sure that we have a great mayor. … It’s an amazing city and an amazing state, so I just want to make sure that we put it in good hands.”

Butke said while she’s been encouraged to run as an independent, if she ran for mayor she would do so as a Democrat. “I’m a lifelong Democrat and my values are very much along those lines,” she said.

Butke also noted that to her knowledge a woman has never run for mayor of Providence, let alone won the office. “I do think it’s time for women to lead more and more in all different offices across the board, in Rhode Island and across this country,” she said.

Update: Readers have noted at least two women who ran for mayor of Providence in the past: Jean Coughlin in 1974 and Victoria Lederberg in 1990. (Both lost to Buddy Cianci.)

• Related: If Taveras moves on, here’s who’ll run for mayor of Providence (March 11)

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