POLITICS

Latinos flex political muscle in Rhode Island, elect first Hispanic secretary of state, Elorza as Providence mayor

Left: Democrat Jorge Elorza celebrates his win over Independent Vincent Cianci, Jr. in the Providence mayoral race, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Providence, R.I.. (AP Photo/Stew Milne) Right: Nellie Gorbea (Photo: Gorbea campaign website)

Left: Democrat Jorge Elorza celebrates his win over Independent Vincent Cianci, Jr. in the Providence mayoral race, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Providence, R.I.. (AP Photo/Stew Milne) Right: Nellie Gorbea (Photo: Gorbea campaign website)

Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr. had all the advantages: the money, the name recognition, the back-slapping patter and charm of a man who has spent more than two decades as the mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, and was six-for-six in his previous runs for the office.

But Cianci was defeated by a Harvard-educated child of Guatemalan immigrants, a Democratic former Housing Court judge, Jorge Elorza, whose up-by-the-bootstraps story won over voters wary of giving Cianci, who was twice forced out of City Hall by criminal convictions, more time in the office.

With 93 percent of the vote counted, Elorza, 37, defeated Cianci, 73, handily, 53 to 44 percent.

Latinos make up about 40 percent of the city’s overall population, 15 percent of that of the state.

“The Latino vote was courted very heavily in this election,” José F. Batista, the president of the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee (RILPAC), which backed Elorza, told Fox News Latino. “And it was by no means guaranteed that it was going to be won by the Hispanic who was running. But he ran a great campaign. He has a great story. He built a broad coalition—and he needed it.”

Cianci, who was originally a Republican, ran as an independent. The Republican candidate, Daniel S. Harrop, running well behind the other two candidates in the polls in the middle of October all but stopped campaigning and gave Elorza a $1,000 donation, the maximum allowed under state law.

Harrop even voted for the Democrat. “Personally, I need to do all I can to stop Mr. Cianci, Harrop wrote in an email explained his decision that the Providence Journal obtained.

Elorza, he added, is “an honest and just man, concerned about the welfare of our city and our citizens. While we have many policy differences, I do not fear that an Elorza mayoral administration will make Providence the laughing stock of the nation.”

In another state election, Democrat Nellie Gorbea, a native of Puerto Rico who attended Princeton and was a former R.I. deputy secretary of state, became the first Hispanic to be elected to statewide office in any of the New England states.

"I am honored to be first Hispanic elected to statewide office in Rhode Island and New England," she said during her victory speech, according to the Providence Journal. "We need to move forward with hope and confidence."

RILPAC also backed Gorbea, and Batista said that during the Democratic primary, “she was up against a wealthy businessman”—Guillaume De Ramel—“who spent tons of money, but she pulled together a great campaign.”

As Secretary of State, she has vowed to amend Rhode Island’s Voter ID law to make it less onerous for poor and frequently disenfranchised communities.

Bill Vourvoulias (@bvourvoulias) is an editor at Fox News Latino.

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