PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Buddy Cianci, the twice-convicted felon who led Providence as mayor for 21 years, wants his old job back.
His decision to run as an independent for what would be a seventh term as mayor puts him smack in the middle of an already crowded field, and sets up what likely will be a heated four-way race in November to replace one-term Mayor Angel Taveras, who is mounting a run for governor.
Cianci, 73, made the announcement Wednesday on his radio show, saying he has the right combination of vision, experience and ability to get things done.
"This is a great city. I miss being mayor, and I love being mayor," he said during a break in his show. "I felt I had some unfinished business."
He said he realized he had baggage, but he hopes voters will give him a chance.
In November, Cianci will face Republican Dan Harrop, businessman Lorne Adrain and the winner of September's Democratic primary — Councilman Michael Solomon, political operative Brett Smiley or law professor and former judge Jorge Elorza.
Smiley said in a written statement that Cianci's candidacy represented a return to the corrupt politics of the past.
Solomon said he — not Cianci — is the candidate of experience, having worked in recent years with Taveras to bring the city back from the brink of bankruptcy. He said voters want to "keep moving forward."
Elorza said the race was about the future of Providence, not the past, while Adrain said Cianci's announcement won't affect his campaign.
"The people of Providence are well familiar with his history," Adrain said.
Cianci mounted his first campaign in 1974 and never lost a mayoral election. But he was forced to resign in 1984 after he was convicted of using a fireplace log and lit cigarette to assault a man he believed was having an affair with his estranged wife. Six years after that conviction, in 1990, he ran for mayor again and won.
His second stint as mayor, known around town as Buddy II, came to an end in 2002 when he was convicted as part of a federal investigation into corruption in City Hall, called Operation Plunder Dome by the FBI. Several members of his administration were convicted. He spent 4 ½ years in federal prison.
The demographics of the city, which usually votes heavily Democratic, have changed since Cianci last won election. Its Hispanic population grew nearly one-third between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Hispanics represented 38 percent of the population in 2010.
Voter Gibran Gonzalez, 21, of Providence, said he would not support Cianci because of his history.
"Things are tight in Rhode Island right now. We need good leaders in politics," said Gonzalez, who studies business management at the University of Rhode Island. "I think someone else deserves a chance."
Cianci was diagnosed in January with cancer and has undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but says his health is good now and won't keep him from running a campaign or the city. He said his final radiation treatment is Friday.
Associated Press writers Erika Niedowski and Jennifer McDermott in Providence contributed to this report.