Last week the conversation in Rhode Island political circles changed quickly from “will he run” to “can he win” as Buddy Cianci announced that he would once again run for mayor of Providence. Love him or hate him, he’s in the race to win and has aligned the stars to give him the best possible chance. While several people I’ve spoken with said his entry in the race was “bad” for Providence, the reality is that without an extraordinary — and coordinated — effort to defeat him, he stands a good chance of being sworn in as Providence’s next mayor, despite the horrified protests of some Rhode Islanders.
Like Buddy, chances are good that when Alex Rodriguez returns to professional baseball next year he’ll get a chilly reception from certain circles who think that a PED user with such a lucrative contract is bad for baseball. The Yankees will be a different team than the one he left in 2013. There will be no Mariano Rivera, no Andy Pettitte and no Derek Jeter to have his back and although it’s too early to tell how a post-suspension A-Rod will play, there will be many of us quick to point out any decline in his performance. Like Buddy, A-Rod has a resume to point to that shows he is perhaps a better player than his his “convictions” might indicate — and then of course, there are the “intangibles.” A-Rod’s return will drive up viewership and ticket sales in a way that introducing a new Yankee player named Brett, Lorne, Anthony, Dan or Jorge (unless it was Posada) would not. And again, love him or hate him, Providence flourished during Buddy’s tenure and no other man in the race can say that he has had equivalent experience.
While A-Rod has a valid contract, the only guarantees for Buddy are the ones that he has created for himself. At 73, Buddy is a generation older than several of the candidates for mayor and many of his voters have left the city, so he needed certain circumstances to come together to make his candidacy viable. By filing as an Independent, he places himself on the November ballot and into a 4-way race where the strongest candidate (one of the Democrats) will already have been battered by a primary. While a certain percentage of Providence voters will never vote for him, there are some that will always vote for him and by placing himself into a crowded field of lesser-known candidates, he has created the scenario in which he has the best chance to win.
For those in Providence who are tearing their hair out as Buddy 3.0 takes shape, there is one way to beat him: create a united front. Two of the four remaining candidates need to drop out of the race, deconstructing the ideal electoral situation for Cianci and putting one candidate forward as the alternative to Buddy. The Democratic primary would have to be more about coming together and less about ripping each other apart. With an overwhelming party affiliation, a non-Democrat should never have a chance in Providence but a divisive primary that gives the winner a short eight-week window to woo general election voters is just what Buddy needs to win.
As the battle to be the anti-Buddy candidate commences now, there’s two things that are nearly indisputable: there is no one in politics more astute than Buddy Cianci and there’s no doubt that he’s got his eyes set on City Hall.
Cara Cromwell is a public affairs consultant with more than twenty years experience managing issues campaigns for corporations, non-profits, associations, coalitions and candidates on both sides of the aisle. Visit her blog, Straight Up The Middle, at straightupthemiddle.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter @cmcromwell.