PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — On the last day to file to run for office, a new Providence mayoral candidate has emerged: former City Councilman Wilbur Jennings.
Jennings, a 78-year-old Democrat, filed to run in the race as an independent. He told 12 News he wanted to ensure there was a general election, since the race previously only had three Democrats running in the primary, and no independents or Republicans.
“I kind of kept it quiet,” Jennings said when reached by 12 News on Wednesday. “I thought that my experience of eight years being on the City Council and all the stuff I’ve learned, I said let me file and see what happens.”
Jennings was elected to the City Council in 2010 to represent Ward 8, and served two terms before losing in 2018 to James Taylor, who is now the council’s majority leader.
He said his top priority is public safety.
“People want to be safe,” Jennings said. “Give the police everything they need. Let them do their jobs, get the knuckleheads off the street.”
He said he also wants to focus on education and returning control of the schools back to the city.
Jennings, who works part-time for the Downtown Improvement District, has not yet reactivated his campaign finance account with the R.I. Board of Elections.
Three Democratic candidates had previously announced their candidacies: Brett Smiley, Gonzalo Cuervo and Nirva LaFortune. All three have been actively campaigning, raising money and participating in forums and debates.
Jennings had previously been listed by the Smiley campaign among a group of current and former elected officials endorsing his candidacy. Asked about that, Jennings said he had been a supporter of Michael Solomon’s campaign, but switched to Smiley when Solomon dropped out and endorsed Smiley.
“He’s the best out of the three candidates” in the primary, Jennings said.
But the official filing period to run for the office was not until this week. All three Democrats declared their candidacies at City Hall, in addition to Jennings.
The candidates must now get 500 signatures on their nominating papers by July 15 in order to be on the ballot.
If Jennings qualifies for the ballot, he would face the winner of the Sept. 13 primary in the general election on Nov. 8.