Solomon Fires Back At Elorza; Cites Poll In Calling Himself Toughest Rival for Cianci

Aug 26, 2014

Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

City Council President Michael Solomon released findings from an internal poll Tuesday in arguing he's a stronger Democrat than Jorge Elorza in taking on independent candidate Buddy Cianci in the November election.

Solomon declined to release the full version of the poll conducted by respected Cambridge pollster John Della Volpe. Instead, he highlighted two different matchups: The first showed Solomon beating Cianci, 36 to 35 percent, with 6 percent for Republican Daniel Harrop, and 23 percent of voters undecided. The second matchup shows Cianci beating Elorza, 38 to 31 percent, with 6 percent for Harrop, and 26 percent undecided. The poll has a margin of error of slightly more than 4 percentage points.

Solomon detailed the findings during a morning news conference at Prospect Park, the same location where rival Democrat Brett Smiley formally ended his campaign last Friday and put his support behind Elorza.

Speaking while standing in front of a group of supporters, Solomon said, "Contrary to the claims made by my opponents last week, I am the only candidate in a position to defeat Mr. Cianci in November. Some would ask, why would you release a poll showing yourself virtually tied with Buddy Cianci? Because I want the voters to know what I know."

Elorza contends that he is a more formidable opponent for Cianci, since he represents a sharper contrast than the one presented by Solomon. On Sunday, the Providence Journal endorsed Elorza and called him the best hope for defeating Cianci in November.

Yet Solomon, 60, argued that his experience in working with Mayor Angel Taveras to help Providence move past the financial crisis inherited by Taveras in 2011 makes him better qualified than Elorza, who has not held elective office. Solomon said he was "appalled" that Smiley and Elorza compared him last week to Cianci, a twice-convicted felon, and he said they are more a part of the "know a guy" culture they derided since Smiley and Elorza formerly served in appointed positions (Smiley as chair of the Providence Water Supply Board, and Elorza as a Housing Court judge).

Elorza's campaign quickly responded with a statement from campaign manager Marisa O'Gara questioning the poll findings highlighted by Solomon.

“Mr. Solomon just released poll results – with no data to back it up – showing he and Jorge neck-and-neck with Cianci," O'Gara said. "Since this poll was conducted, Jorge has gained the endorsements of Brett Smiley, the Providence Journal, and many others, while Michael Solomon has been embroiled in an ethics investigation for 25 separate violations and will face new charges in the coming days. Providence voters deserve a clear contrast with Cianci in November. As they learn more about Michael Solomon’s ongoing ethics investigation, unpaid debt to the Providence taxpayers, and solicitation of city employee donations, the fact that Jorge represents the best chance for moving Providence forward will become clear.”

Solomon was introduced at his event by progressive activist David Segal, a former city councilor and state rep, in a nod to the candidate's need to strengthen his support on Providence's vote-rich East Side. Segal is among an ideologically diverse array of past and present public officials who are supporting the city council president's mayoral run.

Solomon used his news conference to rap Cianci's record (particularly for signing a consent decree that greatly increased pension costs in Providence), discuss his being the subject of a  state Ethics Commission probe, and tout his own performance as city council president.

"I am proud to have worked hand in hand with Mayor Taveras to pass the tough reforms needed to pull the city back from the brink of bankruptcy," he said. "We ended six percent annual compounded COLAs [cost of living adjustments] that were bankrupting our pension system. We negotiated with our police, our fire, our municipal employee unions. We asked our nonprofit colleges, universities, and hospitals to contribute more to our city .... These were not easy or politically popular reforms, but they were needed to save our city from bankruptcy."

Solomon said, "My opponents conveniently fail to acknowledge this record of service to our city and instead attempt to pull me down because I made filing errors on an ethics disclosure form."

He said he's advocated for transparency at City Hall by supporting the televising of council hearings, putting council votes online, and requiring the registration of lobbyists.

The council president acknowledged he should have had lawyers review his initial ethics filings, but said he reached out to Ethics Commission and filed amended forms when he learned of his mistakes. "Yes, the Ethics Commission is reviewing this matter," Solomon said, "and rightfully so. But the amendments have been filed and I will cooperate with the commission to ensure that my filings are 100 percent in compliance. For these errors, I want to apologize to the residents of Providence, and I'm asking the voters to put this in a proper perspective."

The Ethics Commission is examining whether Solomon, as part of a partnership that bought and redeveloped the Conrad Building in downtown Providence, failed to disclose required information.

Solomon argued his openness on the matter can be seen in how he discussed with a reporter "more than two years ago" the partnership's 1987 loan from Providence Economic Development Partnership. He said the group is committed to repaying its debt (which stands at more than $400,000) and have reduced the principal by $50,000 in he last year.

The Ethics Commission is not expected to end its review until after the September 9 primary.