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Mayoral race heats up with new endorsements, donations

While many municipal unions support Cianci, Republican candidate Harrop donates to Elorza

With the Nov. 4 election less than two weeks away, Providence’s mayoral candidates are seeking to build momentum by leveraging endorsements from politicians and unions considered valuable assets in a tight race.

Independent candidate and former mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci has recently been endorsed by a number of municipal unions, including those representing Providence’s teachers, police officers and firefighters. He has also received more than 20 endorsements from former and current Democratic City Council members and state lawmakers.

Democratic nominee Jorge Elorza was recently endorsed by the Providence Journal, and six current City Council members have committed to his campaign.

Last week, Elorza received an unusual contribution: a $1,000 donation from his Republican opponent, Daniel Harrop ’76 MD’79. Lagging behind his competitors in recent polls, Harrop told the Associated Press that while he disagrees with many of Elorza’s policy positions, “he is a good and honorable man,” whom Harrop contrasted unfavorably with Cianci.

Also jumping into the fray, three former federal prosecutors — including U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, and former Gov. Lincoln Almond, a Republican — urged voters not to elect Cianci to another term, as he was forced to resign from both of his previous terms as a result of felony convictions for assault and racketeering. Cianci spent five years in prison following his 2002 racketeering conviction.

“Elorza’s support has come from outside city unions,” said Ian Donnis, a political reporter for Rhode Island Public Radio, adding that he thinks many municipal unions have endorsed Cianci because of benefits they received when he was mayor in the past. “People with longtime ties to Cianci are supporting him,” Donnis said. “He certainly brings out strong opinions.”

“Endorsements are important” because they can help improve voter turnout, increase financial contributions and generally help bolster candidates’ campaign efforts, Donnis said. Harrop’s $1,000 donation to Elorza affirms the Republican candidate’s emphasis on “an anti-Cianci message,” Donnis said.

Teamsters Local 251, a union  that has more than 3,000 members working in Providence, endorsed Cianci because “we thought he was the best candidate,” said Matt Taibi, the union’s principal officer. “He’s got a long record working with unions.”

Though Taibi said Teamsters Local 251 “definitely don’t condone” Cianci’s past criminal activities, he said he believes the former mayor’s record demonstrates a prioritization of working families.

“Whoever wins, I feel that Teamsters can have a working relationship” with the new mayor, Taibi added.

The entrance of several former top law enforcement officers into the debate over who should be the city’s next mayor may signal the intensity of Cianci critics’ opposition to the former mayor’s attempted comeback.

“I think it is pretty unusual to have three top former federal prosecutors offering their thoughts,” Donnis said, adding that it is an especially unique situation for bipartisan officials, including Whitehouse and Almond, to be acting together in hopes of influencing a political race.

It is important to keep in mind that the decisions of unions — such as the Providence police union — to endorse a candidate are usually made by small groups of people, Donnis said, so these commitments of support might not accurately represent the sentiments and preferences of all of the unions’ members.


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