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Cutting through the info-fog of the PVD mayor's race

The Political Scene
By PHILIP EIL  |  August 27, 2014

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PROSPECTS Elorza and Smiley; Solomon and supporters. [Photos by Philip Eil]

Three major Democratic candidates for Providence mayor held press conferences at Prospect Terrace Park in the last week. On Friday morning, August 22, Jorge Elorza and Brett Smiley stepped to a podium together to tell the crowd that Smiley is dropping out and endorsing his former opponent. Pointing specifically to City Council President Michael Solomon as “someone currently under investigation by the Ethics Commission who has a $400,000 unpaid sweetheart loan to the city,” Smiley said, “In recent weeks, it’s become increasingly clear that it will be an enormous step backwards for Michael Solomon to lead our city.” Elorza followed by saying that if Smiley had stayed in the race, it was possible Solomon could win the primary, then lose to Cianci in November. “And Brett and I both agreed that there was no way we could allow that to happen.”

Solomon’s conference took place four days later, mere paces from where his opponents had set up. It gave him a chance to do a few things. First, he was introduced by former city councilman, former state representative, and human stamp-of-liberal-approval, David Segal, who ticked off items from Solomon’s “strong, obvious progressive governance record,” ranging from spearheading the council’s vote to divest from fossil fuels to his work to protect and expand affordable housing in the city. Solomon proceeded to apologize for the errors he made in the ethics filings (the grounds for the Commission’s inquiry), but he stood by his still-unsettled Providence Economic Development Partnership loan from the 1980s intended to help re-purpose a building on Westminster Street. (He and his partners reduced the principal by $50,000 last year, Solomon said, and, in the first place, “That project created jobs. It spurred economic development.”) Before he spoke, a campaign consultant handed out press releases with polling data that — though the full methodology of the poll was not released and Republican candidate, Dr. Dan Harrop’s name was misspelled “Harrup” — suggested Solomon has a 36 versus 35 percent edge in a potential Cianci showdown, while Elorza faces a seven-percent deficit in a hypothetical Cianci battle. “Solomon Campaign Releases Poll Showing He’s the Only Candidate Who Can Defeat Cianci,” the release proclaimed.

That Solomon poll admitted to a 4.6 percent margin of error and, in general, things are getting pretty foggy out there, info-wise. So we tried to sift through the spin and sound bites, to offer few things we know to be true.

•  We know that Smiley and Elorza are trying to portray Solomon and Cianci as old-school politicians cut from the same cloth. A Cianci/Solomon matchup would be “the king of the ‘know-a-guy’ running against the former king of the ‘know-a-guy’ system,” Smiley told reporters at his press conference. On the other hand, when Solomon was asked at his presser whether he is, indeed, a “know-a-guy” guy, he said, “I wasn’t appointed as a housing court judge [like Elorza]. And I wasn’t appointed to the Providence Water Supply Board [like Smiley] . . . I was the only candidate that was elected in this race.”

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