In a move to strengthen support beyond his East Side base, Providence mayoral candidate Brett Smiley unveiled an endorsement Wednesday by state Representative Ray Hull (D-Providence), a 28-year Providence police officer who lives in the same ward as rival candidate Michael Solomon and was formerly a driver for Buddy Cianci.
During a news conference at his home in the city's Mount Pleasant section, Hull said he decided to back Smiley over the two other leading Democrats, Solomon and Jorge Elorza, because of the East Sider's public safety plan.
"His policies really dictated to me how he was going to take public safety to the next level," Hull told reporters. "We're down, maybe 100, 200 officers, and if you read his plan .... it tells you exactly what he's going to do. It spells it out. That's why I'm with Mr. Smiley."
Citing FBI statistics, Smiley calls Providence the 183rd-safest U.S. city with a population of more than 100,000 residents. His public safety plan calls for putting more police on the street, strengthening community policing, and improving technology and crime data analysis, among other steps.
While he said he would leave it to the media to determine which candidate has momentum in the race to succeed Angel Taveras at City Hall, Smiley didn't hesitate in describing his campaign in positive terms.
For now, Smiley appears to be the main beneficiary of the decision this week by Lorne Adrain -- a fellow East Sider -- to close his campaign for mayor. Although Smiley said he did not personally encourage Adrain to end his campaign, he was less direct when asked if his supporters or staffers sought Adrain's exit from the race.
"I don't know what specific conversations people may or may not have had," Smiley said. "The reality is that we've all been trying to fight for every vote possible. I think that Lorne did an incredibly courageous thing in the best interests of the city to make sure that our city's not going to go backwards."
Smiley continued to frame himself most aggressively as the anti-Cianci candidate in the race.
"I think that there is a very strong desire in our city that we continue to move forward," he said. "I do not believe this city is going to go back to its past history of corruption, and frankly, of irresponsible city management. I think we as a city are united in that front. The fact that I'm the only candidate who has shown the courage and the clarity to say that out loud, and to speak with one voice about how we can not allow our city to go backwards, is very important to some people, but everyone wants to make sure we continue to move forward."
Smiley said he's not aware of a coordinated effort to get additional candidates to drop out of the race, in hopes of making a Cianci victory less likely. He declined to share internal polling results when asked.
He cited national media attention, including a recent story in the British publication the Economist -- headlined "Freshening New England's armpit" -- in asserting that Cianci's candidacy is harming Rhode Island's reputation. Smiley also renewed a call for Cianci to debate him prior to the primary election on September 9.