PROVIDENCE — Call it an August surprise in the Providence mayor’s race
Outgoing Mayor Jorge Elorza plans to endorse Gonzalo Cuervo over Brett Smiley and Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune, a decision that could shake up the race with less than three weeks until the Democratic primary.
Elorza has called a 1 p.m. press conference in Dexter Park to make the announcement.
The endorsement is a significant boost for Cuervo, a former top aide to Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and former mayors Angel Taveras and David Cicilline. He already has the support of Taveras, and Cicilline is not planning to endorse any of the three Democrats running in the primary.
Cuervo has pitched himself as the most-progressive candidate in the race, and has been lining up endorsements from the most-liberal members of the City Council and several progressives from Providence in the General Assembly.
Elorza’s decision might come as a surprise to Smiley, who dropped out of the 2014 mayoral race to endorse Elorza and help him beat back Buddy Cianci’s comeback bid. Smiley went on to work as Elorza’s chief operating officer before leaving City Hall to work for then-governor Gina Raimondo.
But Elorza has acknowledged that he has been disappointed by Smiley’s campaign this time around, in part because Smiley has been critical of the administration for “chasing shiny objects” rather than focusing on basic functions of city government, like public safety and road improvements.