If voters think this election year’s mayoral matchup is “déjà vu all over again,” they’re wrong.
Yes, as of yesterday’s deadline for candidates to file, it appears incumbent Scott Avedisian will face a third challenge from Jack Kirby. But there’s a difference. This time around, Kirby will run as an independent.
And that’s it. The Democrats are not fielding a candidate, although Democratic City Committee Chairman Jeff Gofton says there are a lot of “viable” people who could run for the post. His recruitment efforts, however, were unsuccessful.
“I think we’ve got some very good people but they couldn’t afford the pay cut,” Gofton said.
There’s more to it than that. Since winning a special election to complete the term of Mayor Lincoln Chafee – who went to the U.S. Senate when his father, John Chafee died – Avedisian has consistently been a big Warwick winner. In the 2010 contest with Kirby, Avedisian captured 80.3 percent of the vote.
“Everyone is waiting for Scott to make a move [for another elective seat or to leave politics],” Gofton said.
Not Jack Kirby.
“I’m getting old; I figured I’d run,” Kirby said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Kirby, who is 60, did not seek the endorsement of the Democratic City Committee as he did in 2008 and 2010. He was rebuffed on both occasions but, because the party failed to put up a candidate, he won the nomination by default.
Asked why he won’t be running as a Democrat, Kirby said, “I haven’t been too successful with the Democratic party.” He said, as the Democratic candidate, he wasn’t able to raise funds and he didn’t get any help from the party either.
Kirby doesn’t expect to spend a lot. He plans to take a heat gun to the signs from his 2010 race to remove Democrat and replace it with independent.
“You have to be resourceful when you have no money,” he said.
He also feels the independent label fits.
“I don’t talk to anybody [for political advice],” he said.
Kirby’s platform hasn’t changed.
“We get a tax increase every year,” Kirby said of Avedisian. “He must have thought we like taxes.”
“I’m sure cuts could have been made to stabilize taxes,” he added. “I think we could do better.”
Kirby runs his own drain-laying company. He says he enjoys working and can’t imagine retiring.
Asked what he would trim to hold the line on taxes, Kirby said he would like to see the water division and sewer authority combined. He feels there must be savings in a city the size of Warwick. As a comparison, he points to Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who has been able to hold the line on taxes.
Kirby also feels Avedisian has not been diligent about having the city compensated for lost property taxes from the expansion of Green Airport.
“When are we going to be compensated?” he asks.
His suggestions include gaining a percentage of airport parking revenues or a fee from airline tickets. [In fact, the city currently receives a percentage of airport parking. The amount budgeted for the upcoming fiscal year is $500,000.]
“It’s just that they [the airport] have been beating us up. Something has got to change,” he said.
Gofton said, for a challenger to mount a respectable campaign, they would need $150,000 to $200,000. A successful campaign for mayor could cost even more, he speculated.
Although the Democrats won’t have a mayoral candidate, Gofton otherwise foresees a clean sweep for the party on the Council.
“Looking as far as we’re going, it’s a complete Democratic victory,” he said.
For City Council, Steve Colantuono, Ward 1, is the only Republican incumbent. Republican candidates have also declared in Wards 5, 6 and 8.