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Questions Buddy Cianci Must Answer to be Providence’s Next Mayor

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Buddy III.  Buddy 3.0. Whatever term is being used for former Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci's look for a third ascent to the position, there are a few areas he needs to address before voters take to the voting booths -- if he thinks he can win. 

As part of GoLocal's weekly look at "questions a candidate needs to answer" before they can consider winning their race, the spotlight of this week's analsysis of key inquiries is the last entrant to the Providence Mayoral race, Buddy Cianci.

SLIDES: Questions Buddy Will Have to Answer to be Mayor -- Again -- BELOW

Buddy first gained the Mayor's post in 1974 at the age of 33, when he defeated Mayor Joseph Doorley as a Republican.  He won the race in 1982 as an Independent, but resigned in 1984 after pleading no-contest to assaulting an acquaintance of his wife.

Then came Buddy II in 1990, when the former Mayor came back, and in the process snagged the Baby Bruins, built the mall, moved rivers and lit them on fire -- and in 2001 was indicted on 27 charges including extortion, bribery, and fraud.  Cianci was only convicted on one (racketeering conspiracy), which was enough to put him in the federal pen for five years.

The makings of Buddy 3.0 began to take shape when Cianci was released from prison, annd took to the airwaves for his popular talk radio show in 2007.  Cianci officially became eligible to run again three years following the end of his probation in 2012 -- and by then the seeds were planted for a possible third look at City Hall, which Cianci made official on June 25 of this year when he filed papers -- on the last possible day. 

Photo: nobuddypvd.com

A New Providence -- A New Buddy? 

Cianci will now face a field that includes Republican Daniel Harrop and the winner of the Democratic primary between City Council President Michael Solomon, Jorge Elorza, and Brett Smiley. 

Cianci heeded the media's call immediately following his entrance into the race (and sat down with GoLocal for a one-on-one interview), but since then has kept a relatively low profile (if you call raising $200k in one week "low"), as the Democrats must first duke it out in the primary before the final field is set. 

There's talk that the Providence of 2014 is not the Providence of Buddy's glory days.  Different demographics.  Different financial constraints.  But before voters ultimately decide who they want to take the helm of the state's capital city in 2015, here are five key questions Buddy's campaign needs to address before the former Mayor can assume a fifth decade of holding the city's top office.


Related Slideshow: Questions Buddy Cianci Must Answer to be Providence’s Next Mayor

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Staff recruitment?

When GoLocal first started looking into the possibility of Buddy entering the race, we asked of his former staff, "Where are they now?"  

Buddy's been out of office for 12 years.  Anyone of voting age then is now over 30.  And anyone who was a Buddy disciple had to move on, forge a new career path, or retire.   Much like the voting block -- who is Buddy's new base of support from a staff perspective?  Can he snag young social media savvy professionals -- what do they know of Buddy's legacy?  Can he lure folks away from secure positions for a high degree of uncertainty? 

Buddy's got the headquarters, and is undoubtedly putting a team in place, but seems to be keeping a low-profile as the primary campaigns heat up.  Watch to see if he can pull any defectors from the losing Democratic campaigns who see Buddy as the more viable way into City Hall than their former opponent who just beat them.

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Age and Illness?

It's no secret that Cianci is 73, and has been battling cancer.  Listen to him on the radio, you might think you're hearing man twenty years younger.  See him in person, however, and you see a man who has been through...a lot.  Noticeably slimmer and more subdued, Cianci cuts a contrasting figure to his younger days.

Don't count out the razor-sharp Cianci to use this to his advantage -- that this is the kinder, gentler, grandfatherly Buddy who plans on swooping back in to show the younger generation how to be Mayor, with his experience. 

The question will be if he truly has the health and stamina for the grueling sprint to the finish between the primaries and Election Day in November -- and whether hi opponents will bring that up in private circles, our outright in public. 

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Laugh Test?

The felonies.  The toupee.  The fireplace log, lit cigarette, and ashtray.  They're all products of Buddy's past, and more often than not, a punchline of a joke. 

No doubt Buddy's got the ability to laugh at himself -- and quickly dismiss critics pointing to his criminal record -- but do Providence voters want the glad-handing Mayor with his larger-than-life baggage as Providence looks to emerge from the the recent recession and precarious financial standing?  

Voters have seen the self-depricating side of Brett Smiley in his man-with-a-plan ad, but don't expect Buddy to play up his follies to the same extent.  He'll cut to the chase and speak to his track record and what he did while in office -- and what he plans to do if elected again.  So who will be laughing come November?  Stay tuned.

Graphic: nobuddypvd.com

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Providence as U.S. Joke?

As far as self-image goes, the Economist's recent Buddy piece, "Freshening the Armpit of New England," didn't do much for the national perception of Providence.  "Can America's Ex-Con Mayor Win Again?" quipped the Daily Beast.  And how can one forget the Business Insider dubbing Cianci the "Poster Boy of Political Scandals."

While Rhode Island as a whole tries to shake the constant bottom-of-the-U.S. rankings for business and the economy, Providence has worked hard to shed the underachieving image, and was most recently awarded citation from the National Conference of Mayors for being an exemplary mid-sized city.  Buddy is running on the platform that he turned Providence around before, and he can to it again.  The questions is, will voters give him the chance?

Graphic: nobuddypvd.com

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Can he win?

Perhaps the biggest question now is whether Buddy can win.  When he entered the race as an Independent -- and former Democrat Lorne Adrain made the switch to join him in the unaffiliated ranks -- the prospect of a four-way finale seemed to be in Buddy's favor, having to capture a seemingly do-able share of the vote.

Now with Adrain out, and whispers that Republican Dan Harrop might not stay in the race until election day, the prospect of a three-way battle and possibly a two-one -- could be keeping the former Mayor up at night...or he could be too busy raising money to meet the winner of the Democratic primary an his general elections challengers starting September 10.  Either way, Buddy's chances of getting back in the race have slimmed, but he can never be counted out.


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