If Providence City Council President Mike Solomon doesn’t win an expected Democratic primary for mayor in 2014, it won’t be for lack of trying.
Solomon has worked in synch with Mayor Angel Taveras, who is widely expected to run for the Democratic nomination for governor. Solomon, has arguably been the most effective council president since Elmwood's Nick Easton, who held the post under Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr., in the mid-1980s.
Providence city councils have been known more for gripping ever-so-tightly to parochial issues, as if the 15 individual council members were parish priests who cared solely about their own back yards and patronage perks. But the rever of red ink that has coursed through the city budget has forced the council and mayor to take tough cost-cutting and pension reduction measures that are never popular with pols.
Solomon has done a decent job herding eels, which is what a successful council president must do. And he has done it without taking needless shots at either the Taveras Administration or his colleagues, even when he was personally skeptical on issues. (Solomon, for example, probably wouldn’t have fired all the teachers).
Now Solomon is organizing a campaign in earnest in the event that Taveras runs for the State House. Solomon is lining up A list consultants, including pollster John Della Volpe, who has extensive experience in Rhode Island and was once the Providence Journal’s pollster in the days when the newspaper cared enough about political issues in Rhode Island to pay for independent polls. Della Volpe also worked on Democratic Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign. Della Volpe’s last tracking poll in that predicted that very close race precisely. Solomon is also interviewing top has political consultant talent. Solomon has never been known as an orator, a limitation he understands and is focusing on. He is working on his media style with Barbara Tannenbaum of Brown University and other consultants.
Where Solomon is ramping up the effort is in fund-raising and in the retail side of the business, where he has painstakingly met with state and Providence political, business and educational leaders. The host committee for his upcoming May 14 fund-raiser at Roger Williams Park Casino has a diverse and impressive East Side to Elmhurst to Elmwood host committee that represents most city neighborhoods.
Among those who have signed onto the May 14 fund-raiser are Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Taveras and a passel of state and city political figures, including State Reps. Joe Shekarchi; Joe Almeida; Scott Slater; Bill O’Brien; Cale Keable; former Rep. Linda Kushner; Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, Council Majority Leader Seth Yurdin; Councilman Sam Zurier; Chris Blazejewski; John Carnevale; Greg Costantino; Ray Hull; Grace Diaz; House Majority Leader Nick Mattiello; Council member Carmen Castillo; Council member Wilbur Jennings; Sen. Mary Ellen Goodwin, who is also chairwomen of the Providence Democratic City Committee; Sen. Paul Jabour; Sen. Frank Ciccone; Rep. John DeSimone; Councilman Terry Hasset, Councilman David Salvatore; Warwick Councilman Joe Solomon; Councilman Nick Narducci and House Speaker Gordon Fox.
Solomon has also lined up business leaders and influential lawyers, including Tom Moses, Mark Ryan, Matty Lopes and Malcolm Farmer III, the last Republican to represent the East Side on the council and the husband of former Secretary of State Susan Farmer; businessmen Jim Winoker and Terry Moran; Don Sweitzer, GTECH executive and former political director for the Democratic National Committee; former Mayor Joe Paolino, another influential business leader; Democratic Party Chairman Ed Pacheco; consultant Michael Van Leesten; Steve Smith, leader of the Providence Teachers Union; Paul Doughty, president of the union representing city firefighters; union leaders Ronald Coia and Michael Sabitoni; Teny Gross of the Institute for the Study & Practice of Non-Violence; Ken Orenstein; Arnold `Buff’ Chace, noted developer and philanthropist; Jim Bennett, city economic developer and Republican; Carlos Diaz; Greg Mancini of the building trades unions; Devin Driscoll and former Rep. Ray Sullivan, who both steered the gay marriage issue through the State House; damage control media guru Bill Fischer, a former top aide to Sen. Whitehouse when he was attorney general; lobbyist Lenny Lopes; Miriam Ross and Gary Kaufman; lobbyist Pat Quinn; Andrew Cortes; Jose Batista; Jorge Cardenas; Marilyn Cepeda; Bob Kumins, Matt Jeryzk from the city solicitors’ office; East Side activist Karina Holyoak Wood; fundraiser Brett Smiley and former state Sen. Sean Coffey.
The event is from 6 to 9 p.m. at the casino on May 14.