Elorza Sounds Populist Notes in Announcing Providence Mayoral Run

Nov 18, 2013

Elorza and campaign staffer Emily La Plante following his campaign announcement.
Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

After progressives won mayoral races in New York City and Boston, does Jorge Elorza hope to become Providence's equivalent of Bill de Blasio and Martin Walsh next year?

During a campaign announcement Monday morning outside his childhood home on Cranston Street in Providence's West End, Elorza sounded a handful of notes reminiscent of de Blasio and Walsh, while emphasizing his own path from poverty and almost not graduating high school to Harvard Law School and beyond:

-- Elorza says the issues upon which he'll focus -- schools, jobs, and neighborhoods -- are "not just talking points to me. I have lived them and I've seen how providing opportunity can be a blessing, and how denying those opportunities can be fatal. There's an urgency to our work, and as mayor, I will never forget that urgency." Elorza said he decided to return to Rhode Island after working on Wall Street at age 21 due to the murder of a childhood friend.

-- The son of Guatemalan immigrants invoked his past work as a Housing Court judge in Providence, describing himself as someone who used power to hold financial institutions accountable. Elorza says that thanks to his efforts "many homes in the city that had been abandoned for two, three or four years have now been rehabilitated."

-- On education, Elorza said, "We have to shift resources and decision-making authority and put them back into the schools and classrooms where they belong. And we need to give principals, teachers, parents and students leadership roles, because bottom-up leadership is what will transform our schools."

Asked later whether he's the most progressive candidate in the growing field of hopefuls to be Providence's next mayor, Elorza responded by calling that a matter for voters to decide. For more background on the candidate, read this earlier post.

Elorza was joined by a group of more than 100 supporters as he made his announcement. Those on hand included Central Falls Mayor James Diossa; Central Falls educator Victor Capellan, who staged his own brief run for mayor; and H. Philip West Jr., the longtime former executive director of Common Cause of Rhode Island.

Elorza is the only Latino candidate in the race to succeed to Angel Taveras at City Hall. A number of other Democratic candidates are running, but have not yet made formal campaign announcements: City Council President Michael Solomon; lobbyist and former Providence Water Board chairman Brett Smiley; and management consultant and civic activist Lorne Adrain. Former longtime city councilor John Lombardi has indicated he's likely to run. Republican Daniel Harrop has already announced his latest campaign for City Hall.

Elorza will be on leave from his job at Roger Williams Law School as of January 1. He says he plans to raise between $400,000 and $500,000 for his campaign.