Getting Ugly for Cicilline

Running for higher office from the mayor's chair is always a difficult proposition. City Hall comes with baggage.

That made former Mayor David Cicilline's triumph in the Congressional election of this past fall all the more impressive. And as he settled into his Capitol Hill offices, the ugliness of urban politics was supposed to fade rather quickly.

But with his successor in the mayor's office, Angel Taveras, pointing to a massive structural deficit, Cicilline is taking some serious heat.

A sharply worded piece in today's Providence Journal has several officials accusing Cicilline of mismanagement, secrecy, and a pre-election cover-up. And Cicilline's canned response to the criticism doesn't help (although the alternative - getting down in the weeds and attempting to defend his fiscal policies as mayor, point by point - is probably worse).

But could this seriously damage the freshman Congressman's re-election prospects? Don't count on it.

The story has some staying power, to be sure. It will take time for Providence to dig out of this crisis. But the shock will fade in time. Taveras, a Cicilline ally, has shown little appetite for blaming his predecessor. And Cicilline's fundamentals are strong: he's a savvy politician and strong fundraiser. And Jennifer Lawless, a former Brown University political science professor, says a strong constituent service operation and a voting record in line with the district's politics will put him in good stead.

A Democratic primary challenge is a possibility. But he'll have the advantages of incumbency in any intraparty fight. And he'll be favored against any Republican challenger. After all, he beat a reasonably strong GOP candidate in a once-in-a-generation year for Republicans last fall. And with President Obama atop the ticket next year, Democrats are sure to turn out in solid numbers and cast their votes for Cicilline - even if the present calamity has dampened their enthusiasm for him.


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