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    Cianci loses to Elorza in Providence mayor’s race

    Cianci (left) and Elorza are running for mayor of Providence.

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Former mayor and two-time felon Buddy Cianci failed in his quest Tuesday to return to City Hall after a race that became a referendum on his criminal past.

    Cianci, 73, was first elected in 1974 and had never before lost a race for mayor. Democrat Jorge Elorza put an end to the streak, beating the independent Cianci and Republican Dan Harrop, who came in a distant third — and even voted for Elorza instead of himself.

    Elorza, 37, a law school professor and former municipal housing court judge, is the son of Guatemalan immigrants. A Providence native, he worked his way up from poverty and through Harvard Law School.

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    But the race came down to Cianci’s criminal history during his 21 years in the mayor’s office.

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    Cianci was driven from office twice. The first time was in 1984, after he pleaded no contest to using a fireplace log and lit cigarette to assault a man he believed was having an affair with his estranged wife. After a stint as a radio talk show host, he mounted a comeback and was elected mayor again in 1990. But in 2002, he was convicted of racketeering conspiracy and sent to federal prison for 4½ years.

    The prospect of his return to office brought out several big names in support of Elorza and led to some unusual alliances. President Barack Obama made a rare endorsement in a municipal election, and three former U.S. attorneys from across the political spectrum, including U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, backed Elorza.

    Even Harrop, Elorza’s Republican opponent, voted for him after donating $1,000 to his campaign. Harrop said the possibility of Cianci’s winning was such a threat to the city that it trumped partisan politics.

    Elorza might not be done with Cianci yet. Cianci is on leave from his job as a host on WPRO-AM, where he began working after getting out of prison in 2007. If he returns, Cianci will have a powerful platform from which to criticize Elorza, one he has used in the past to go after his political opponents, such as his successor as mayor, David Cicilline, now a congressman.

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    Elorza succeeds one-term Mayor Angel Taveras, who ran for governor and lost in the Democratic primary.

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