scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Smiley wins Democratic primary for Providence mayor

Because he will face no Republican or independent candidate in the general election, Smiley is all but guaranteed to succeed outgoing Democratic Mayor Jorge Elorza

Brett SmileyAlexa Gagosz

PROVIDENCE — Brett Smiley, a former top adviser to Governor Gina Raimondo and Mayor Jorge Elorza, won the Democratic primary for Providence mayor Tuesday, defeating Gonzalo Cuervo and Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Smiley had 41.9 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results from the state Board of Elections.

Because there is no Republican or independent candidate, Smiley is all but guaranteed to succeed Elorza, the outgoing Democratic mayor who is term-limited.

Smiley, who previously ran for mayor in 2014 but dropped out to support Elorza, pledged to get “back to basics” in City Hall, vowing to improve public safety, trash pickup, and snow removal if he won the race.


His thinly-veiled criticism of Elorza for focusing on too many “shiny objects” in Providence — like reparations for Black and indigenous people and a guaranteed income for certain residents — led Elorza to support Cuervo in the primary. Elorza called Smiley Tuesday evening to congratulate him on the win.

Cuervo, a veteran of city politics who worked in the administrations of mayors Angel Taveras and David Cicilline, ran as the most progressive candidate in the race, vowing to cap annual rent increases at 4 percent. In addition to Elorza and Taveras, he was endorsed by state Senators Maryellen Goodwin, Sam Bell and Tiara Mack.

LaFortune, who was elected to the council in 2017, didn’t raise as much money as Smiley or Cuervo in the race, but her message resonated in many neighborhoods. She vowed to focus on education, pledging to lobby the state to return control of the struggling school district to the city.

Despite not facing a general election opponent, Smiley will wait nearly four months before he is sworn in as the new mayor. He’ll spend the coming months organizing his staff, and Elorza has pledged to work with the winner on a smooth transition to the job.


The 43-year-old Smiley earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees from DePaul University. He lives on the East Side with his husband, Jim DeRentis.

Dan McGowan can be reached at Follow him @danmcgowan.