Metro, News

Elorza to face two challengers in Democratic primary

Kobi Dennis emphasizes youth involvement, Robert DeRobbio seeks to reform public schools

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, September 10, 2018

Mayor Jorge Elorza seeks re-election with commitments to improving infrastructure and supporting Providence youth.

Incumbent Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza will face off against two primary challengers — Kobi Dennis and Robert DeRobbio — in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary. The two independents in the race, Dianne Witman and Jeffrey Lemire, will contend against the winner of the primary in the November general election.

Elorza confirmed his re-election bid in October 2017, The Herald previously reported. He assumed his position as mayor after winning the 2014 election against long-time Providence politician Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr. and Republican Daniel Harrop, according to the Rhode Island Board of Elections. For his first bid at re-election, Elorza is focused on continuing the work he has already accomplished, according to his campaign website.

David Allard, Elorza’s campaign manager, emphasized the mayor’s commitments to investing in infrastructure and Providence youth in an email to The Herald. “This type of development and investment will ensure good-paying jobs and a thriving environment in which to keep our many talented college graduates in the City of Providence after they graduate,” he wrote, adding that the campaign has a “grassroots coalition of volunteers (that) includes many high school and college students.”

Democratic challenger Dennis, who served in the U.S. Navy, is the director of a youth mentorship program called “Princes 2 Kings,” according to his campaign website. He has stressed the involvement of college-aged voters in his campaign, citing their work registering voters, canvassing and volunteering at events. “Their ideas and well-being have also influenced my platform positions because we all count,” Dennis wrote in an email to The Herald.

The effects of Trump administration policies on Providence community members weigh heavily on Dennis’ mind, he added. “Discrimination has only increased in our country with the Trump administration, and there are many additional national issues in the backdrop during this election season,” he wrote.

Voters’ concerns about economic opportunity and quality of life are also at the forefront of a slate of issues Dennis hopes to address if he wins City Hall.

Fellow Democrat DeRobbio, a former lieutenant and captain in the U.S. Army, served as interim superintendent and later as the executive director of school support and business operations for the Providence public school system, according to his campaign website. DeRobbio hopes to improve Providence school facilities and delegate decision-making to teachers and principals. “Providence students can compete with anybody; they just need leadership that prioritizes their success,” according to the website. His platform also advocates for the legalization of marijuana and diversifying the police force. DeRobbio could not be reached for comment.

Independent challenger Witman, who has built a career in political fundraising, has served on “many boards and city commissions,” according to her campaign website.

Lemire could not be reached for comment and an online version of his platform could not be found before the publishing of this article.

With additional reporting by Sophie Culpepper.

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