Jorge Elorza, a professor at Roger Williams University Law School, is gearing up to run for mayor of Providence if Angel Taveras seeks another office.
"If Angel decides to run for governor, I will run for mayor," Elorza said Wednesday, in his first interview on the subject.
"I want to make a difference. The city, in so many ways, is still facing massive challenges, and throughout my life, I've always found whenever there's uncertainty or whenever there's crisis, there's always opportunity. I think these are moments when we need big ideas. I think these are moments when people are most receptive to big ideas, and I look forward bringing people to think big and to think collectively about all of the opportunities we have in the city. I think we have all of the raw ingredients in the city to be a world-class place, and I look forward to building that team that creates that city that we can and should be."
Elorza says he believes he needs between $300,000 and $500,000 to run an effective campaign.
He says his background -- as a child of Guatemalan immigrants who went on to Harvard Law School, and work experience on Wall Street, as a Housing Court judge, and as an educator -- sets him apart from other prospective candidates. "I've seen a little bit of the world," Elorza adds, pointing to how he's traveled in Africa, South America, Europe and elsewhere.
Regarding the possible presence of more than one Latino candidate in the mayoral race, Elorza says, "I can't worry about what I can't control and I told myself, if I stay focused and I continue to share my story ,,, things are going to work out fine."
Elorza has filed a notice of organization with the state Board of Elections stating his intention to run for mayor. In a letter submitted to Taveras on Tuesday, he resigned from his post as an associate judge of the Providence Housing Court. Elorza's letter touches on some of the themes he might amplify during a campaign:
I am proud of my track-record on the bench, especially in holding big banks accountable for the mess they caused in our city. Due to the recession and the foreclosure crisis, hundreds of houses became vacant and blighted. I began to issue subpoenas to the banks so that they would present themselves and account for these abandoned properties. The process has been extremely successful and has led to the rehabilitation of various homes that had sat idle and vacant for many years. Although I am stepping down, my colleagues on the Court have adopted this process and are continuing to hold the banks accountable. To the best of my knowledge, there is no other Housing Court in the country doing this work and I trust that it will serve as a state-wide and national model.
In the letter, Elorza says he's resigning "so that I may explore other opportunities and better serve the City that I love."
A resident of Providence's Silver Lake section, Elorza has a BS from URI and a law degree from Harvard. He's a lifelong resident of Providence.
Republican Daniel Harrop has stated unequivocally that he'll run for mayor next year. Beyond that, a number of Democrats, including City Council president Michael Solomon, Central Falls educator Victor Capellan, and lobbyist Brett Smiley, are set to campaign if Taveras -- as expected -- runs for governor.
A number of other candidates could jump in, ranging from Buddy Cianci to Ward 15 Councilor Sabina Matos. The potential presence of three Latino candidates raises an interesting question: would they all run, or would one or two bow out? In 2010, Italian-American candidates Steven Costantino and John Lombardi split at least part of the vote. Yet a mayoral field with multiple Latino candidates would mark another step forward in the political empowerment of Latinos in Rhode Island.
This post has been updated.