Citing the need to keep Buddy Cianci from winning back Providence City Hall, Brett Smiley dropped out of the mayor's race Friday and is backing former Democratic rival Jorge Elorza.
The decision leaves only Elorza, a law professor and former judge, and City Council President Michael Solomon in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary. The winner will face Cianci, an independent, and Republican Dan Harrop in November.
"Brett has put his love for the city over his desire to be mayor," Elorza said during a joint news conference the two candidates held to announce Smiley's decision.
The state ethics commission is investigating Solomon following a complaint that he failed to disclose business interests in ethics filings, which Solomon's campaign has said were inadvertent errors.
"Both Mike Solomon and Buddy Cianci would return our city back to the dark days of its past and not to the future that we know we can have," Smiley said.
The two said that Solomon is ahead in internal polls, and they fear if he wins the primary, he will lose in November.
"If Mike Solomon becomes the Democratic nominee, then there's a very real chance that Cianci would come back into City Hall, and there's no way that we can allow that to happen," Elorza said.
In response, Solomon's campaign manager, Jake Bissaillon, called Solomon the clear front-runner and said he is the only candidate able to beat Cianci.
"This last minute backroom political deal is not the solution to defeating Mr. Cianci in the fall. Their arrangement is reminiscent of the politics of the past and the last thing Providence needs at this critical juncture," Solomon said in a written statement.
Smiley is the second candidate to say he's dropping out of the mayor's race because of the risk of a Cianci victory. Lorne Adrain, a businessman who filed to run as an independent, dropped out last month.
Cianci is the city's longest serving mayor, having led Providence for 21 years. But he was forced from office twice due to felony convictions, the first time for assaulting a man he believed was having an affair with his estranged wife, and the second time for presiding over widespread corruption in City hall. He served more than four years in prison.
Incumbent one-term Mayor Angel Taveras is running for governor.