Who Wants to Replace Taveras as Mayor?
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Providence Mayor Angel Taveras hasn’t announced he will run for Governor, but a number of candidates are already lining up to replace him should he declare.
Speculation has been swirling for months over who would seat the mayoral seat if Taveras seeks higher office, with a long roster of suspected candidates. But over the course of several interviews with city sources several figures have consistently emerged as those who are seriously considering a mayoral run. Some are new to politics and some are veterans of the local scene while others would be first-time candidates. They include the following:
Victor Capellan: Capellan has been a school administrator in New York City, Providence, and Fall River, most recently serving as the deputy superintendent in Central Falls. He has run for political office at least once before, mounting an unsuccessful race for state rep in the mid-1990s. He has maintained his ties to the political world since, serving as an adviser to the Taveras campaign and last month was nominated by the Mayor to a post on the city plan commission. That appointment is slated to go before the City Council for approval.
Race remains completely open
Two local political scientists yesterday said there are too many unknown factors to make an assessment about how the race may take shape.
“It’s far too early for observers to make any reliable projections or even suggestions what the final landscape will be. As the media and political pundits have been saying for months, Angel Taveras may very well be a candidate for Governor,” said Tony Affigne, a political scientist at Providence College and a visiting professor in ethnic studies at Brown University. “But until he makes that choice and announces that decision all other [candidates] are purely speculative.”
Variables that hang over the race include the question as to when Taveras makes a decision, how effective potential successors can be in fundraising, how much money can be raised before Taveras makes his decision, and what the political landscape will look like months from now when those questions are resolved, according to Affigne.
Three Latino candidates evidence of changing dynamics
The fact that three Latino candidates have already emerged as likely contenders—Sabina Matos, Victor Capellan, and Jorge Elorza—is a sign of the rising prominence of the Latino community in city in which Taveras is serving as the first Hispanic mayor. “Having several qualified candidates represents progress for the Latino community because all three of these Latino candidates are credible, visible, experienced community leaders,” Affigne said.
But he said there’s also a downside from a tactical perspective. “It does sometimes split the vote so none of them is able to win election,” Affigne said.
One City Hall source said he believes that all three candidates have an equal shot of winning over the Latino vote. “At this point, all of them have good personal stories to tell and would be able to galvanize a fair component of the Latino electorate,” the source said, adding that as the campaign moves along, other factors, such as their fundraising prowess and organizational strengths, would play a stronger role.
Non-Latino candidates, however, could also be at a disadvantage now that the Latino community had a political breakthrough with the city’s first Hispanic mayor, according to Profughi. The question remains whether the Latino community can unite behind one candidate. “If they do, I think it’s going to be hard to go in a different direction,” Profughi said.
But the bigger question, according to Affigne, is not so much whether one of the three can get the Latino community to rally around them, but whether they can build a broad coalition that includes non-Latinos.
It’s been done before, by Angel Taveras, but he had already demonstrated a broader appeal to voters a previous Congressional run, according to Affigne. There is no such track record for any of the three Latino candidates. Elorza has never run for office. Matos’ experience is limited to one out of 15 wards and the House district in which Capellan ran is smaller than a ward, Affigne said.
Taveras won the Democratic primary by building an East Side-South Side Coalition. “There doesn’t seem to be an heir apparent for that,” one City Hall source said.
There’s also the thorny issue as to whom, if anyone, would Taveras endorse. He may face outside pressure to endorse a Latino candidate, but Solomon has also proved a close ally who may be counting on his support in a mayoral campaign, the source added.
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