PROVIDENCE – The leader of the capital city who was widely believed to be among those entering the 2022 gubernatorial race will not be making a bid for state office next year after all.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mayor Jorge O. Elorza announced he will not be seeking any state office in the next election cycle. While Elorza had not formally entered the race, he had been actively raising campaign funds and staffing up, fueling speculation of an impending announcement for the state’s highest office, various news outlets have reported.
In the statement, Elorza described the mayoral post as his “dream job” and cited his commitment to the city along with parenting duties as reasons why he decided against a run for state office.
“Simply put, committing myself to a statewide campaign while also fulfilling my duties as mayor and as a parent is not possible,” he stated.
The decision comes amid escalating criticism of Elorza over handling of city crime as well as his decision to name a city administrator with no law enforcement experience to a new, high-profile role within the Providence Police Department. Elorza on Sept. 3 named Recreation Director Michael Stephens as the Providence Police Community Relations and Diversionary Services Major, prompting backlash from local and national police organizations as well as lawmakers who believed the role should be filled by someone with a policing background.
Elorza also took heat in August for remaining out of town on a planned family vacation in New Hampshire despite calls for reform in the wake of a series of high-profile violent incidents that left the community shaken.
Elorza in an interview with PBN on Wednesday afternoon said the recent criticism had “absolutely zero” influence over his decision. “I have been mayor for going on seven years now,” he said. “I have been in the eye of the storm sufficient time.”
He added that a phone poll conducted by his campaign team in early July indicated there was “a path” for him to the governor’s seat. The poll, which was about issues rather than candidates, indicated support for someone with “executive experience” and “makes tough decisions,” Elorza said.
Details including the number of people polled and the exact questions asked were not immediately available.
Elorza acknowledged that a poll this early into the campaign season was by no means a strong indicator of his viability. He also said that the mayoral post has not traditionally been a launching pad into the governor’s seat due to “strong headwinds” that accompany the Providence position.
Elorza, who is term-limited and will lose his seat as mayor in 2022, left the door open for a future run, stating “perhaps the conditions will be right at some point in the future.”
The gubernatorial race thus far includes R.I. General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, R.I. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz, all Democrats. Gov. Daniel J. McKee is also expected to enter the race. Elorza on Wednesday said he has not decided who he will be supporting.
“I do believe this race for governor, with me in it and with me out of it, is going to be won in the campaign season,” he said.
Both the gubernatorial and Providence mayoral elections will be held on Nov. 8, 2022.
Updates throughout to include additional comments from Mayor Jorge O. Elorza.
Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.
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