Who’s the next mayor of Providence? 16 names to consider

Aug 14, 2012

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and state Treasurer Gina Raimondo could be headed for a seismic clash in the 2014 Democratic primary for governor. If that happens, who will be in the hunt to suceeed Taveras at City Hall?

To stand a shot, candidates will need to build a strong East Side base while develping crosstown support. Being a solid fundraiser is important, although not necessarily decisive, considering how Taveras was outspent by Steven Costantino in 2010.

Here’s an initial breakdown of possible contenders (if Taveras moves on):

– Like few others, City Council President Michael Solomon bridges the old and new worlds of Rhode Island politics. Solomon has been a steady partner for Taveras, and would benefit from his profile as council president. His home base of Ward 5 is a crucial part of Providence elections, too. ”Obviously, it’s something I would consider,” Solomon says of a possible run, emphasizing that his focus remains on current council business.

– House Speaker Gordon Fox has a base on the East Side and his powerful post translates into fundraising prowess. Yet in the aftermath of Costantino’s third-place finish, it’s unclear if voters would rally behind another high-profile lawmaker, particularly one with ties to the state’s deal with 38 Studios. Spokesman Larry Berman says Fox is “only looking at his re-election this November and is not thinking past that at all.”

– Speaking of the Statehouse, Representative Christopher Blazejewski is a young rep with a potentially high ceiling. He’s polished his public speaking skills and pushed some good-government legislation. Asked about running for mayor, Blazejewski says he appreciates having his name mentioned, “but I am fully focused on and committed to winning re-election this year and continuing to represent Providence at the Statehouse.”

– Ward 3 Councilor Kevin Jackson says he’s very interested in a run for mayor if Taveras moves on, and he hopes to make a decision by as soon as next January. “It’s a very strong possibility,” says Jackson, the council’s longest-serving member, who believes that and his advocacy on issues affecting l0w-income residents would be an asset. His electoral base in Mount Hope also hugs more prosperous parts of the East Side.

– State Senator Juan Pichardo has been mentioned as a possible secretary of state candidate in 2014. Yet might he move in a different direction with an increasingly crowded field for that position? “You never know,” said Pichardo said, adding, like most of those interviewed for this post, that’s he focused on the present.

– Former state Treasurer Frank Caprio. Caprio’s father previously sought the mayor’s office in a crowded field, and Caprio himself looked for a time like the next governor before his 2010 campaign came crashing down. Losing the 2002 Democratic primary to Myrth Yorke was the best thing that ever happened to Sheldon Whitehouse. So will Caprio re-enter the political fray with a run for mayor? He declined comment.

– Former City Council president John J. Lombardi has a good shot at capturing the seat currently held by state Representative Michael Tarro. Yet if Lombardi doesn’t win the three-way Democratic primary, he’d quickly become part of the discussion for the mayor’s race. Lombardi ran a solid second to Taveras in 2010, and can build on that base.

– Former Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr. lagged behind David Cicilline in the four-way Democratic primary in September 2002. He passed on running in 2010. Paolino gives Taveras high marks for his performance. Asked about a potential run, he says, “That’s two years away. We’ll look at it at that time.”

– Ward 14 Councilman David Salvatore has emerged as a reform-minded ally of Taveras, and may perhaps one day before Finance Committee chairman. Salvatore says he hasn’t given the idea of a mayoral run much thought, but wouldn’t rule it out.

– ward 15 Councilwoman Sabina Matos says she putting all her energy into her work on the council, although she adds that her political future is “wide open.” She’s “undecided” on the possibility of a mayoral run, but says the idea of being Providence’s first female mayor “sounds very nice.”

– Ward 4 Councilman Nicholas Narducci would draw support from those angered by school closings last year, but it remains to be seen if he could attract citywide support. Narducci couldn’t be reached for comment in time fo this post.

– Meeting Street School president and CEO John M. Kelly was hovering for a possible mayoral run in 2010, although he never pulled the trigger. Kelly could put some coin together and has other assets if he wanted to make a run. He didn’t return a call seeking comment

– City Solicitor Jeff Padwa was a key part of President Obama’s RI campaign in 2008, and his interest in politics can be seen in how he’s the treasurer of the Providence Democratic Party. But, Padwa says,”Running for mayor is not something I’m entertaining.”

– State Senator Maryellen Goodwin couldn’t be reached for comment.

– Council Majority Leader Seth Yurdin seems unlikely to run, given the possibility of a Solomon candidacy. He calls 2014 “a long way away,” and says, “I’m just working on the job I was elected to do.”

– Former mayor Buddy Cianci has set up his own fiefdom as a WPRO talk-show host.  The guy who had a plan for Bob Kerr to do his laundry isn’t short on ambition. You know he’d love the last-laugh concept of Buddy III, coming long after Buddy I and Buddy II. But does he really want to leave the cozy talk-radio realm to deal with potholes, snow removal, and the like?