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Providence Mayor Elorza on skipping the R.I. governor’s race, and what he hopes to accomplish before he leaves office

On the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, the mayor talks about his poll numbers, his plans, and whether he’ll endorse Governor Dan McKee

Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, left, spoke with Boston Globe reporter Edward Fitzpatrick on the Rhode Island Report podcast.Carlos Muñoz


That was Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza’s response when he was asked whether he’ll throw his support behind Governor Daniel J. McKee now that he’s decided not to run for governor in 2022.

“He’s a decent dude who means well,” Elorza said of McKee on the Rhode Island Report podcast. “But, you know, I definitely have my issues with him as a leader. I do not think that he is the leader that our state needs, and I don’t think that he is going to be the elected governor.”

In July, Elorza confronted McKee during a news conference promoting WaterFire, taking the governor to task about the newly proposed Providence Teachers Union contract.


And after amassing more than $1 million in his campaign account, Elorza had been expected to challenge McKee in the 2022 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

But during the podcast, Elorza reiterated that he decided against running because it would be impossible to campaign for governor while doing his work as mayor and while parenting his 3-year-old son.

Political observers have suggested that decision had more to do with poll numbers indicating that he’d lose the race. But Elorza said he did polling, and “it’s very clear there is a path” for him to win.

“If I were to be in it 100 percent, I truly believe that I could win this race,” he said. “But sometimes you got to be careful what you wish for.” Even if he won, “it would have come at a cost that for me, at this point in my life, just would not have been worth it,” he said.

The last Providence mayor to become governor was Dennis Roberts in 1950.

“It’s not a launching pad for the governor’s office,” Elorza said. Part of the reason, he said, is the mayors must make decisions that can “piss off” powerful people, such as his decision to oppose developer Jason Fane’s proposed 46-story Hope Point Tower on former I-195 land.


“Some folks will never forgive me for making that decision, and that’s that’s only one decision,” Elorza said. “That’s like a Wednesday afternoon decision. As mayor, you’re making these decisions every single day.”

Before leaving office, Elorza said he hopes to address the $1.26 billion in unfunded pension obligations that he described as “an albatross that continues to hang over the city’s head.”

Earlier this year, he proposed borrowing $704 million through a pension obligation bond, and paying it back over 25 years while taking advantage of low interest rates. But McKee and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, who is now running governor, said the idea was too risky.

“There is no way, if I’m running for governor, that the other candidates for governor are going to let me have a ‘big win,’” Elorza said. “So I think, in some ways, not not being on the ballot next time around might actually make it easier for me to do that, to do the work of the city.”

Elorza also defended the decision to place more speed bumps on the streets of Providence, despite complaints.

“Everybody wants speed bumps,” he said. “The reason why there are more speed bumps is because the demand is through the roof, and we’re going to continue to put speed bumps out there.”


Elorza said he’s not sure what he will do once his term ends. “I’ve been so focused on the governor’s race, I haven’t spent much time thinking about what’s next,” he said. “I think I have some transferable skills. I will check the help wanted ads, see if any cities need mayors.”

Hear more by downloading the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player below:

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.