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Guest MINDSETTER™ Jennifer Brien: What if Buddy Loses?

Sunday, November 02, 2014


So what happens if Buddy Cianci loses the election and heads back home to the lucrative talk radio chair he's lobbied verbal bombs from for the past five years since his release from the gated community?

Will he be the doggie who can bark but can't bite? 

Since Cianci's return after four and a half years in federal prison where he served time on a RICO charge as a result of Operation Plunderdome then another half decade on the radio, the mystique of "will Buddy run again" has always been the possibility hanging over the city of Providence like the Sword of Damocles. Well, now the elephant's no longer in the room. The mystery looms no longer. We know it was Col. Mustard in the dining room with a lead pipe (sorry, the game of Clue has no fireplace log.)

Cianci had to go into this race knowing his harshest critics, with the Providence Journal leading the way, would relentlessly attack him over his two felony convictions. What he might not have considered strongly enough was the ammunition he provided these critics since his return from a 4 and a half year stint in a federal prison. In his book POLITICS AND PASTA he admitted using his public power for personal reasons. He admitted that he got used to raising taxes and used jobs as currency to get the support he needed. Those statements are committed to text and cannot be pulled back. 

While I do believe everyone deserves a second chance, (third)  and I consider Buddy an effective leader who can get things done, one must ask, "Is this merely a carnival ride or does this man deeply care about the city of Providence and it's citizens?"  By the way, carnival rides are fun, so long as you stay away from the chili cheese fries.

Hester Pryann's "A" was her scarlet letter. Buddy's could be a  an "L," as in loser, and that means the emperor has no clothes. Losing this Providence mayoral race virtually defangs Buddy as a talk show host watchdog over the city of Providence because the "what if " has been removed from the equation permanently. He's now left with little more than the same old tired cliched stories he's used time again to get a few chuckles at a rotary club or to sell a book or a jar of marinara sauce. He's risked and could potentially lose, a lot, with this one last run at power and glory.  

Don't get me wrong, I do like Buddy and his marinara sauce, I just wish Buddy would have sat THIS one out.

Brien is a veteran radio talk show host, and currently is with News Radio 920 WHJJ.  


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, or 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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