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Convicted Mayor Out of Favor, Not His Issues

Politics: Rivals vying in Providence, R.I., back causes that made the incumbent popular.

September 05, 2002|From Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — With Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci looking at the possibility of prison, the Democrats vying to succeed him are distancing themselves from him while embracing some of the causes that made him so popular.

The four candidates face off in a primary Tuesday, four days after Cianci is to be sentenced. He could get up to 20 years for his role in a scheme in which city jobs, contracts and tax breaks could be had for bribes.

The Democratic mayoral contenders are championing such causes as urban renewal and gay rights that won such support for Cianci. He has been mayor since 1974, except for a six-year absence in the 1980s prompted by an assault case.

A recent poll showed that 50% of voters favored state Rep. David Cicilline to replace Cianci, while 32% support former Mayor Joseph Paolino Jr.

State Sen. David Igliozzi was backed by 10%, 4% favored lawyer Keven McKenna, and 4% were undecided.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 1/2 percentage points.

Whoever wins the nomination will be the favorite in November in this heavily Democratic city.

The three terms since Cianci returned to office in 1990 have brought a renaissance downtown that the Democratic candidates have promised to extend into blighted neighborhoods.

Paolino has said he wants to rebuild those areas by cleaning up parks and schools and adding community police officers.

Cicilline is advocating the arts--much like Cianci--and supports renewing neighborhoods in part by making gallery and studio space available to more people.

Paolino has taken another page from Cianci's playbook by seeking the support of gay voters. Cicilline is openly gay.

Cicilline and McKenna declared their candidacy before Cianci was convicted in June, and both have publicly upbraided the mayor. Paolino and Igliozzi entered the race after the verdict and have not openly criticized Cianci.

"It's easy to kick somebody when they're down, but I decided that I'm not going to do that," said Igliozzi, a former city councilman who worked in the city solicitor's office under Cianci.

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