EXCLUSIVE: Cianci Weighs in on Providence Mayoral Race
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
"There're a lot of apathy. Not a lot of well-known faces. Not much activity."
He praised the staff at Miriam, where he received treatment for rectal cancer, and is optimistic about his recovery through chemotherapy over the next three months. Cianci, 73, holds the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. drive time slot on 630 WPRO. He is slated to be back behind the microphone Monday. The former mayor has been mulling another run this year, but hasn't announced a decision.
Campaign plans speculated
Cianci, who has asked the media to respect his privacy while he recovers, said there would be time discuss the election in the future. His patience, however, won't stop local political experts from speculating on the impact of another Cianci campaign. Among them is former Mayor Joseph R. Paolino, Jr., who has been loud and clear about his support for a possible Cianci campaign.
"With Mayor Taveras leaving, and I think he's done some great things, I think people in Providence are looking for somebody who's going to get something done. Creating jobs, economic development, the changing skyline, the tax base. I think people are tired of listening to a lot of talk and want someone who gets things done," Paolino said.
Paolino said he doesn't know if Cianci will run again. And he took care to say that he respects the other candidates. He called City Council President Michael A. Solomon one of the best council presidents the city has ever had.
"He knows how to do things. But Buddy is on a whole different level."
Cianci has a colorful past. While some people may see a felony conviction as a drawback, Paolino was quick to point that the mayor is an open book.
"There's nothing anybody can tell you that you don't know about Buddy Cianci. His past, his private life, now his health … Everybody knows everything about him. He has lived it on the front page of the newspaper and electronic media. He's probably the most vetted candidate we'll ever have run for office."
M. Charles Bakst disagrees
Former Providence Journal Political Columnist M. Charles Bakst disagrees. (Bakst began the conversation by stating he supports Democratic Candidate Brett Smiley for mayor.)
"Health wise, I wish him well. I hope this heightens the public awareness of cancer and saves some lives. Politically, I'm not a fan of his. I believe people are tired of him."
Bakst disagrees with Cianci's politics – and believes the city would not reelect Cianci – but he agree's with the former mayor's assertion that there's little excitement in the race. A gubernatorial race will nearly always overshadow a city mayoral race. Especially when there are no big names in contention for that office.
"It's absolutely being overshadowed by the race for governor. Angel Taveras, if he's elected, would be the first Latino governor. Gina Raimondo would be the first woman governor. Allan Fung would be the first Asian governor. And Clay Pell is one of the more unusual candidates."
While Bakst made a point of saying he'd "be against Cianci for sure," he said Cianci's name alone would fire up the public's current apathy in the mayoral race.
It's important to note that the city Cianci ran for more than 21 years has changed a lot since he left Providence City Hall in 2002. Rhode Island's Hispanic population has grown from 90,820 in 2000 to 130,655 in 2010. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Rhode Island is now the 12th most Hispanic state in the country. An estimated 13 percent of Rhode Island residents are Hispanic. The Hispanic population in Providence County is 19 percent.
According to former Rhode Island Attorney General and political commentator Arlene Violet, this is not the Providence that Cianci once ruled.
"Because of the changing demographics, former Mayor Cianci would only have a shot if Mayor Tavares and the other Hispanic office holders backed him," Violet said.
Thomas A. "Tad" Devine, a Block Island resident who was senior adviser in Al Gore's 2000 and John Kerry's 2004 Presidential campaigns, wouldn't speak directly to the Providence mayoral race. He spends most of his time in D.C. and believes the truth about a possible Cianci bid could be found by polling the electorate. He did say, however, that Cianci's recent cancer announcement could be a factor.
"A new set of circumstances with his health could make people feel differently about him today than they did yesterday."
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Will he, or won't he?
One of the burning questions for 2014 is whether the former two-time Mayor of Providence will toss his hat in the ring for a third go at the office.
GoLocal posed the questions back in September, asking political experts and pundits their thoughts on the matter. Of the longest-serving Mayor of Providence, who was in office from 1975 to 1984 and again from 1991 to 2002, Darrell West of the Brookings Institute and formerly of Brown's Taubman Center for Public Policy said, "There would be tremendous media and public interest if Cianci ran. It would turn this into a high-profile campaign. It is not clear what will be the deciding factor. It would be very different if Cianci is in the race or not."
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