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Taveras would be first Hispanic mayor of Providence

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. ­— Angel Taveras won the Democratic nomination last week in the Providence mayor’s race, pushing the Harvard-educated lawyer closer to becoming the first Hispanic leader in the capital city’s history.

Taveras, a 40-year-old former city housing court judge, won easily with 49 percent of the vote, compared with 29 percent for City Councilman John Lombardi, who briefly served as mayor in 2002 after Vincent “Buddy” Cianci was sent to prison for corruption, and 20 percent for influential state Rep. Steven Costantino.

Taveras — who at his victory celebration led his supporters in cheers of “Yes, We Can!” — has a smooth path to mayorhood ahead of him. No Republican is running against him, and his only opponent in the Nov. 2 general election is a poorly funded independent.

He would succeed two-term Mayor David Cicilline, who won the Democratic nomination for the congressional seat vacated by Rep. Patrick Kennedy.

He drew on his own life story throughout his campaign, explaining how he was a son of Dominican immigrants who was propelled from a Head Start program to Harvard and then to Georgetown University’s law school. He is a lawyer in a private practice and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1999.

“I think people are excited about the fact that really, in America, anything is possible if you work hard,” Taveras told the Associated Press after his win.

Taveras said he would focus on creating jobs in the city and improving the troubled school system.

He relied on support from the city’s growing Hispanic population and from Providence’s more affluent East Side, while Costantino and Lombardi campaigned aggressively in other neighborhoods, including the traditionally Italian enclave of Federal Hill.

“Angel has the cleanest break with older regimes in the city,” said Peter Gill Case, a 49-year-old architect who voted for Taveras. “He’s somebody fresh with good ideas. I felt like the other candidates, two in particular, were tied into the way business used to be.”

Costantino was elected to the General Assembly in 1994 and leads the House Finance Committee, which crafts the state budget.

Lombardi has been a fixture of city politics for decades. He was City Council president in September 2002 when Cianci, then the mayor, was sentenced to federal prison for running City Hall as a criminal enterprise. He was elevated to mayor and served until January 2003, when Cicilline took over.

Perennial candidate Christopher Young also ran but did not raise any money.

Associated Press