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Buddy's back: a reader's digest

The Political Scene
By PHILIP EIL  |  July 2, 2014

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YEP, HE'S RUNNING Cianci in DePasquale Square. [Photos by Richard McCaffrey]

There’s no disputing the fact that Providence — and all of Rhode Island, for that matter — has Buddy Fever.

The only question, then, after Vincent A. Cianci announced, “Today with a sense of humility, contrition, and confidence, I announce to you my candidacy for mayor of Providence,” during his June 25 radio show, is, “What are your symptoms?”

If you’re like retired Providence Journal political columnist, M. Charles Bakst, the launch of the twice-convicted former mayor’s latest (and, likely, last) campaign triggered waves of nausea. “It makes me sick,” he tweeted after Cianci’s show ended. On the other hand, if you’re like any of the listeners who called in to that show (“The city of Providence needs you one more time,” “Providence is in an existential crisis right now. I can think of one prescription, and that’s Buddy Cianci”) you’re probably feeling something closer to euphoria.

There will be plenty of time for you to sort through whatever visceral reaction Buddy’s return to the political arena stirs. The 73-year-old is running as an independent, which means that as long as he secures the 500 signatures necessary by July 11 to qualify for a spot on the November ballot, he’ll bypass the September primary and sail on through to Election Day.

In the coming months, you can count on us to analyze his campaign message, follow his staffing choices, track his fundraising progress and, in general, treat him like any other mayoral candidate. But of course, he isn’t just any other candidate. None of his opponents appeared alongside Kim Jong-un and Bob Dylan in last week’s Boston Globe news quiz. (Buddy’s multiple-choice question: “Cianci’s first stint ended in 1984 after he was convicted of ____; he was reelected in 1990 but left office again in 2002 to serve four years in prison for ____.” Answer: “b) assault, racketeering.”)

For now, as the era being called “Buddy 3.0” begins, it’s worth sifting through the tidal wave of press coverage — local and national — that followed his announcement.

MOST MEMORABLE PHRASE(S)

Buddy’s announcement brought an end to months of speculation and analysis from the local press, much of it stoked by a sustained, vocal indecisiveness from the man, himself. In a June 22 essay for Rhode Island Public Radio, political analyst Scott MacKay dubbed this routine “Hamlet on the Woonasquatucket River,” a line that was only superseded by one from Buddy a few days later, when, during an interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, he said, “I’ve never met a fence I couldn’t straddle.”

MOST PROFANE BUDDY INTERVIEW

The “will he or won’t he?” act reached a crescendo when the national news website, The Daily Beast, sent a reporter to Providence as the declaration deadline loomed to attend a Buddy Cianci Show broadcast, ride around town in Buddy’s Lincoln Town Car (license place: “VAC”), and hold court over espresso and cake on Federal Hill. Buddy has a history of letting f-bombs fly when national publications come to town. (In 2002, he told The New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch, “Yeah, I punched a guy in the mouth for fucking my wife.”) So his profanity during this interview was hardly a shock.

Over the course of their time together, David Freedlander reported Providence’s longest-serving mayor saying, “If I did the kinds of things I was accused, of, I mean, it’s like Mario Puzo wrote the fucking story!”; “[W]hat goes on now, it’s the same fucking people doing the same fucking thing. . . just today there was a story about they fired three tax assessors because they were taking people off of the rolls. Now, if it was my administration, BOOM — they would have had the Navy SEALs in there, the CIA, everybody”; and “There have been books written about me, documentaries. It’s all there. The only thing they don’t have from me is a fuckin’ stool sample!”

MOST MEMORABLE HEADLINE

The honor goes to businessinsider.com, for its June 25 post, “‘Poster Boy Of US Political Scandals’ Announces Comeback Bid.”

BEST ONE-LINER FROM A COMPETING MAYORAL CANDIDATE

On June 25 at 3:55 pm, just minutes after Buddy’s on-air announcement, the campaign of Democratic mayoral candidate, Brett Smiley, sent out a press release that included the quote, “If we want to turn the page on corruption in Providence, the last thing we should do is bring back the guy who wrote the book.”

BEST RESPONSE FROM BUDDY TO A COMPETING MAYORAL CANDIDATE

After Smiley sent out another press release two days later, challenging Buddy to a debate “on the topic of ethics, government accountability, and the cost of corruption to the city,” Buddy issued a response, via an article by News Talk 630 WPRO anchor and reporter, Kim Kalunian.

“Mr. Smiley has to gain that nomination on September ninth. I’d be very happy to debate him after that,” he said. “And perhaps we could pick a venue right now, perhaps we could do it at his father-in-law’s nightclub, the Foxy Lady.”

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 See all articles by: PHILIP EIL



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