Two candidates make bids for mayoral race

Community activist Kobi Dennis, Mayor Jorge Elorza confirm candidacies

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 26, 2017

Only two candidates, community activist Kobi Dennis and Mayor Jorge Elorza, have confirmed their candidacies for the 2018 Providence mayoral race.

Meg Clurman, finance director for Elorza’s first campaign, confirmed to The Herald Oct. 18 that Elorza plans to run for reelection, but said the campaign has no further comments at this time.

Elorza has not assembled a campaign team yet. But as the incumbent mayor, Elorza has an advantage in the mayoral race. The last time an incumbent mayor lost to a challenger was 1974 when Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr., a Republican, beat Democrat Joseph Doorley Jr.. Dennis, Elorza’s opponent, is a Providence native and community activist who lives with his family in the city.

He wants to disprove that candidates need to be a part of “political machines.” “I think running for mayor involves family values, a rich personality and honesty,” Dennis said.

Elorza certainly outpaces Dennis on campaign fundraising. At the time of his interview with The Herald, Dennis reported that his campaign filed their first financial disclosure report with no funds. Elorza, on the other hand, has a head-start on fundraising with $484,502 collected thus far, according to campaign finance documents.

Dennis compared beginning his mayoral race to starting his own community organizations, such as Princes 2 Kings, Project Night Vision XL and Unified Solutions RI, which connect disadvantaged youth with after-school programming and unemployed adults with job opportunities, among other missions.

Aspects of Dennis’s voter outreach method had been untraditional so far. As part of his strategy, Dennis goes to nightclubs and social events to connect with young voters as his target demographic is people ages 16-24, he said. Dennis said he hopes to reach young voters to educate them on the voting and campaign donation processes.

Dennis, who volunteered in Elorza’s first 2012 campaign, said he would differ from Elorza as mayor both in term of policy and outreach to the community. Dennis pointed to Elorza’s regulations on homelessness, crime and the bridge between law enforcement and the community as policies that he would like to change. Dennis also stressed the importance of community involvement and engagement through community forums and one-on-one conversations.

“I just want a better outcome. If that means me losing, I’m okay with that. In no way will I take a deal with anyone. I am going to run until the end,” Dennis said.

Lorne Adrain, a businessman and community activist in Providence, has not officially declared his intentions to run for mayor, though local news outlets have speculated that he will.

“I am thinking seriously about it. I am thinking about the job, the city and what needs to be done,” Adrain said, adding that he is still unsure whether he would ultimately decide to run.

Adrain has thought about what his campaign would look like if he does run for mayor. His platform would focus mainly on entrepreneurship and financial restructuring for Providence, he said. 

“I think those are the two key things we have to do dramatically better. That would lead to more resources with the schools, neighborhoods and programs for kids. Without fundamental transformation of our economic base, none of that stuff would happen,” Adrain said.

While Adrain supports the Elorza administration, he pointed to specific improvements that could be made. “From personal experience and from what I’m hearing from many people, (Elorza has) lost the confidence of too many people and too many groups in the city to be successful,” Adrain said.

Other news outlets have predicted State Rep. Raymond Hull, D-Providence and North Providence, State Rep. John Lombardi, D-Pawtucket, and Councilman David Salvatore will join the race. Hull declined to comment on the speculation while Lombardi and Salvatore did not respond to multiple requests for comment.