Elorza/Smiley Deny Back Room Deal in Mayoral Shake Up

Saturday, August 23, 2014


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The formal announcement was made today that Brett Smiley is dropping out of the Democratic primary for Providence Mayor and throwing his support behind Democrat Jorge Elorza, but the candidates dodged questions about whether a back room deal had been struck or what an Elorza/Smiley "dual ticket" would look like.  

“What we have agreed to is that neither of us want to see our city go backwards and the handshake that we put on the deal was that Buddy Cianci and Mike Solomon cannot be elected mayor because it would bring our city backwards,” said Smiley. 

“Brett and I had a discussion and the conversation entailed how we are going to win in September and how we are going to win in November.  I look forward to working with Brett and I look forward to having his advice and his council,” said Elorza. 


Elorza was non-committal when asked about the role Smiley would play in the campaign and whether he would consider their candidacy going forward a “dual ticket.”  

“Perhaps it is,” said Elorza.   “Brett and I are going to continue campaigning….i am going to trust on his advice and I am going to trust on his support. In terms of the campaign we are going to work together to make sure we win in September and then again in November and then after the election I look forward to counting on Brett Smiley’s support and on his advice and to make sure that we turn this city around."  

Smiley said he would address giving money back to supporters, while encouraging his campaign staff to volunteer for Elorza.

“I will be working with my supporters to make sure that I honor the intentions of their donations, and I can assure you thatwe have been running to win every day up until yesterday.  We are going to volunteer our time for Jorge to make sure that he is the next Mayor” said Smiley.  

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Solomon and Cianci looming

When asked whether Smiley's decision to drop out of the race represented the very same type of “know-a-guy” back door decision making that both candidates have campaigned against,  both candidates insisted that the decision was reached in the interest of promoting transparancy and good governance.  

“There is a very real threat that we could return to the old days at City Hall,” said Smiley.   “We have unfortunately have someone who right now is in a position to win the Democratic primary (if we did not work together) who is the king of the ‘know a guy’ running against the former king of the ‘know a guy’ system.”

Elorza went further and attacked Solomon for being under investigation by the Ethics Commission and the $400,000 he owes the city of Providence for a taxpayer funded loan made in 1987.     

“It is one thing to be under investigation and to be under investigation from an Ethics Commission…We can’t afford to elect another mayor that is under investigation.  We can’t afford it as a city,” said Elorza.    

Yet, despite pinging Solomon for being under investigation by the Ethics Commission, Elorza has no plans to return a $2,000 donation and repudiate the endorsement of $3 Bar owner, Gianfranco Marrocco.

“[Marrocco] is a person who hasn’t broken the law. there is no clear line that has bene crossed and I do not intend to return the contribution,” said Elorza.  

Is Myrth York Calling the Shots?   

When asked whether either had been in contact with former gubernatorial candidate and Democratic operative Myrth York -- who is speculated to be spearheading a  527 "Anyone But Cianci" effort -- prior to reaching their decision, Elorza replied with a definitive no while Smiley acknowledged that he had spoken with York the prior evening after the decision had been reached.

“Last night I informed Myrth that I would be dropping out of the race.  She has been a good friend and supporter but I did not speak with her about any sort of independent effort,” said Smiley.     


Related Slideshow: Questions Jorge Elorza Must Answer to be Providence’s Next Mayor

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Experience Necessary?

Elorza's the quintessential Providence kid-made-good -- and clearly has the education success story of CCRI to Harvard Law going for him.  He's toiled in the legal trenches, and risen through academic ranks. 

But does that translate to a business acumen and know-how to turn the city around?  Brett Smiley counts starting a successful consulting company.  Although a double-edged sword, Michael Solomon's got the city council experience. 

Elorza's managed cases, and students.  Can he oversee a staff of hundreds -- go toe to toe with the unions?

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Money for Plans?

Opponent Brett Smiley might have dubbed himself the man with the plan, but Elorza's right up there with a litany of proposals for the capital city.  Schools, jobs, public safety, neighborhoods, transportation, diversity, arts and culture, ethics -- Elorza's got plans for it all.

And like Smiley's grand amibtions, the burning question is how will these be funded?  Elorza has a plan to double the city's exports in the next five years, with mentoring opportunities and trade missions as part of the strategy.  Those cost money.   Where will it come from?

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Fundraising prowess?

At the end of the first quarter of 2014, Elorza posted a small lead over Smiley in the cash balance department, with $217,082 in his campaign coffers as compared to Smiley's $191,000 and change.  Both, however, were a distant second and third to Solomon's war chest over over $600,000

As the Democratic candidates duke it out, second quarter filings due at the end of the month will show were the money race stands with less than eight weeks to the primary. 

Of course, whoever wins will have to face a Buddy Cianci waiting in the wings, who told GoLocal he raised over $200,000K in one week -- and expects to have $1 million by the time the primary arrives. 

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Primary Factor?

For the Democrats in the race, the primary is, in fact, the primary concern of the campaigns at the moment, with Harrop and Cianci waiting in the wings for the winner. 

Will Elorza's campaign, based strongly on his Cranston-street upbringing and focus on ethics, differentiate him from political operatives Smiley and Solomon? 

The first test on the path to the Mayor's office will be to best his two top adversaries in September.  Will Elorza's deep city ties and campaign aparatus translate into a get-out-the-vote effort enough to take the Democratic title?

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Final Hurdle?

All of the Providence Mayoral candidates, whether they like it or not, have to address to Buddy card. 

So far, Brett Smiley's been the most vocal -- publicly, at least -- in criticizing former Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, attacking him on his corruption charges and conviction.  Harrop and Elorza have been highly critical, but as aforementioned, the Democrats are focused primarily on the task at hand -- making it past the primary.

If Elorza does advance, can he count on the support of his former Democratic opponents and their backers -- or will there be a mass exodus of those who see Cianci as the more viable candidate?  Republican Dr. Daniel Harrop provides an X factor in the genera election, of course, but a three-way race is vastly different animal than a four-way one before Adrain dropped out.  The winner will need to secure a greater chunk of the electorate. 


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