PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Here’s all you need to know about the race for president of the Providence City Council: until someone calls for a vote, no one has secured the support of the seven colleagues they need to grab the gavel.
It has only been a week since indicted Council President Luis Aponte resigned his leadership post before the majority of the council could change their rules to remove him, but at least five candidates have emerged as potential successors.
So who’s running and do any of them actually have a path to victory? Here’s an overview.
Sabina Matos (D)
Ward: 15 (Olneyville, Silver Lake, Valley, West End)
Employment status: works for the R.I. Department of Administration
First elected: 2010
Campaign cash on hand: $2,196
Key votes in current term: yes on Aponte for president; yes on both budgets; yes on first passage of the Community Safety Act; and no on tabling the CSA until June 1.
Because she was elected president pro tempore at the beginning of the term, Matos became the acting president as soon as Aponte resigned. That gives her a leg up on the competition, but the longer the race goes, the more she appears to be at risk of losing out. Her easiest path to the presidency was probably to keep together roughly the same team that voted for Aponte in 2015, but that looks like it could be more difficult now. Aponte is still upset at being forced out and appears unlikely to jump behind her. And others who were once considered solid supporters – like John Igliozzi and Terry Hassett – are now candidates themselves. But there are other ways to get there. With Matos at the top, the two best chips she can offer are president pro tempore and chairmanship of the Urban Redevelopment and Renewal Committee (URRP). She could also create a Ways and Means Committee to oversee financial matters and sideline Igliozzi in favor of someone who supports her, a strategy used against Igliozzi by former President Michael Solomon in 2012.
- Question: can Matos remain acting president for the rest of the term without calling a vote for president? It’s complicated. The council presidency has been vacated early on three occasions since 1984, twice because the president was elevated to mayor and once because he died. On two of those occasions, an election for president was held. In 2002, because it was so close to the end of the term anyway, Councilwoman Balbina Young did remain acting president. Right now a lot of city officials are looking at a 1948 court decision that ordered the Newport City Council to hold a special election for mayor “within a reasonable time” following the death of the mayor. (Newport’s council selects the mayor the way the Providence council selects its president.)
John Igliozzi (D)
Employment status: attorney for the R.I. Department of Transportation
First elected: 1997 (special election)
Campaign cash on hand: $14,869
Key votes in current term: yes on Aponte for president; yes on both budgets; absent for first passage of the Community Safety Act; and yes on tabling the CSA until June 1.
The chairman of the City Council Finance Committee, Igliozzi is considered an expert on the city budget. He’s also among the most polarizing members of the council, occasionally clashing with some of his colleagues and the mayor’s office. But lately he has earned more respect from his fellow councilors for leading the effort to drive Aponte out as president and for advocating for the council to put the brakes on the passage of the CSA to get more input from the police. This has allowed him to emerge as something of a compromise candidate for council president, but it’s still unclear if he can get to eight votes. He would probably need to win over at least a few of the councilors who have voted against his budgets in the current term to pull it off. But he can offer the Finance Committee chairmanship and potentially majority leader to build his team.
David Salvatore (D)
Employment status: works for the R.I. Association of Realtors
First elected: 2010
Campaign cash on hand: $45,150
Key votes in current term: no on Aponte for president; no on both budgets; yes for first passage of the Community Safety Act; and yes on tabling the CSA until June 1.
The longer the race for president plays out, the more attractive Salvatore becomes as a candidate. If the council waits until the special election in Ward 3 is held this summer, it’s conceivable he could have five or six votes in his pocket. But getting to eight won’t be easy. Salvatore has staunchly opposed council leadership for the last two-and-a-half years, a position that is more popular with the average voter than it is with the colleagues he’ll need to put him over the top. And because committee seats are considered four-year terms and Matos would remain president pro tempore if she is successful in her bid for the presidency, Salvatore appears to have fewer chips to offer to the councilors that could get him to the top spot.
Nick Narducci (D)
Employment status: retired from Narragansett Bay Commission
First elected: 2006
Campaign cash on hand: $4,745
Key votes in current term: no on Aponte for president; yes on the 2015 budget and no on the 2016 budget; yes for first passage of the Community Safety Act; and yes on tabling the CSA until June 1.
Councilman Narducci is the only current candidate who can accurately say they have received votes for president in the past. In 2015, five councilors voted for Narducci over Aponte (Narducci also voted for himself). But times are a little different now and even Narducci acknowledges that he probably hasn’t held all of those votes. His best strategy now is to secure his eight votes or cut a deal with another candidate that would give him some type of leadership position, like president pro tempore or majority leader. Don’t count him out, though. Narducci seems to always find ways to make himself a swing vote, as he did recently when he first voted for a proposed downtown smoking ban before voting against it, giving Mayor Elorza the ability to veto without the threat of an override.
Terry Hassett (D)
Employment status: works for the R.I. Department of Labor and Training
First elected: 1997 (special election)
Campaign cash on hand: $3,146 (is past-due on two quarterly reports)
Key votes in current term: yes on Aponte for president; yes on both budgets; yes for first passage of the Community Safety Act; and yes on tabling the CSA until June 1.
On most important votes, Councilors Hassett and Igliozzi tend to vote as a bloc. That’s why the two long-time friends aren’t working against each other even if they both want to be the president. Hassett is also considered a compromise candidate whose path to victory would likely involve bringing together councilors from different factions within the body. Like Salvatore, he appears to be limited when it comes to what he can offer. Matos, who won’t support him, isn’t giving up president pro tempore and he’s not going to shake up the Finance Committee because he’ll only become the president with the support of Igliozzi. Then again, he may have the best chance of earning Aponte’s support, which is a vote that still counts.