PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Brett Smiley won last week’s Democratic primary for mayor of Providence by taking a majority of precincts across the city, running especially strong on the East Side and the north end.
Smiley is now on track to be sworn in as mayor in January, because he faces no challengers in the general election.
A Target 12 analysis of Board of Elections data shows Smiley won 46 of the city’s 82 voting precincts, while second-place finisher Gonzalo Cuervo won 32 precincts. Third-place finisher Nirva LaFortune won four precincts, all in the City Council ward she represents.
Smiley took nearly every precinct on the East Side, other than the four won by LaFortune, and every precinct in the north end of the city. Cuervo had strong support in South Providence, Federal Hill and the West End. He lost by roughly 1,100 votes, with 37% of the vote to Smiley’s 42%.
“Cuervo’s support was more concentrated, there’s no question,” said 12 News political analyst Joe Fleming. “He carried no precincts on the East Side or in the north end.”
Fleming noted that in addition to winning in higher-turnout areas, Smiley managed to pick up a few precincts on the south and west sides of the city, cutting into Cuervo’s base.
“It looks like Smiley had broad support throughout the whole city, in all different sections,” Fleming said. “That was key to his victory.”
LaFortune won nearly 22% of the vote. "She couldn't expand her base of support beyond her home ward," Fleming said. "She ran well in certain areas, but not enough to finish first."
McKee wins primary, but Gorbea takes Providence
In the governor's race, incumbent Dan McKee won the primary, taking 33% of the vote statewide. But in Providence he came in second place, as Nellie Gorbea won 33% of the city vote compared to McKee's 28%. Helena Foulkes came in third in Providence, with 24% of the city vote, despite placing second statewide.
The Target 12 analysis shows Foulkes and Gorbea split the East Side vote, a high-turnout area of the city. McKee won the north end of the city and many of the precincts in Wards 7, 8 and 10, but didn't win any precincts on the East Side.
Foulkes won just two precincts outside of the East Side.
"Her campaign didn't get momentum until the very end," Fleming said. "A lot of mail ballots were cast before that."
He said Gorbea has long had a base of support in Providence, helping her win the capital city.
"But she wasn't able to go into the other communities," Fleming said. "Her momentum was sort of stagnant since the last Channel 12 debate."
He noted that it will be key for McKee to not only win Providence in the general election, but generate a high turnout in the Democratic stronghold if he wants to offset potential support for Republican Ashley Kalus in other communities.
"The big thing to keep in mind is there's no mayor's race to draw the voters out," Fleming said, adding that McKee's team is "going to have to get out the vote."