Mark Curtis's blog

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- July 6, 2014


(Providence, Rhode Island) – Hey it’s the 4th of July weekend, so nothing too heavy and political today. I just thought we’d have fun with some July 4th trivia. We’ll get back to the nitty-gritty of politics next weekend.

“Watch Out!” – There was a White House birthday on July 4th. Malia Obama turned 16 and she is learning to drive. Forget Vladimir Putin – nothing will make the President’s hair turn more gray than a 16 year old in Driver’s Ed! Cheers to them! Can you imagine being 16 years old on the White House? I always liked Susan Ford’s stories about ditching the Secret Service and escaping 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when her dad was President.

“Good Day – Bad Day” – The Fourth is a great day in American history, especially for anyone elected President. Unfortunately, three of our ex-Presidents died on Independence Day. Founding Fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the very same day – about five hours apart. That was July 4, 1826. Five years later, James Monroe died on July 4, 1831. So, three of our first five Presidents died on July 4th. That means that 7 percent of all of our Commanders-in-Chief have died on the nation's most patriotic day. How ironic!

“On the Other Hand!” – Those Presidents who died on July 4th should not overshadow one who was born on that historic date. Calvin Coolidge, our 30th President, was born in Vermont on July 4, 1872.

“That’s Entertainment!” – Lots of people from the world of show business, media and entertainment were born on America’s birthday! They include: “Jersey Shore” star, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino; actresses Eva Marie Saint and Gina Lollobrigida; playwright Neil Simon; advice columnists (and twins) Ann Landers and Abigail “Dear Abby” Van Buren; singers Bill Withers and Mitch Miller; TV host Geraldo Rivera; and, chef/TV host Andrew Zimmern.

“Good Sports!” – It must be tough having to share your birthday with Lady Liberty, but some sports figures have that distinction. They include famed New York Yankee’s owner George Steinbrenner; NFL stars Floyd Little and Todd Marinovich; Major League Baseball player Vinny Castilla; and, NBA star Horace Grant.

“What Am I, Chopped Liver?” – We listed famous politicians and entertainers who were born on the 4th, but how about someone who’s worked both professions? Long before Ronald Reagan went from the theatrical stage to the political stage, actor George Murphy went from Hollywood to the U.S. Senate. Murphy, who served in Washington, D.C., from 1965 to 1971, was born on July 4, 1902. By the way, both Murphy and Reagan served as president of SAG, (the Screen Actors Guild), while transitioning from show business to politics!

“Where is Everybody?” – John Adams, argued that the celebration should be held on July 2nd, since that is the day when the motion for independence passed, and then the actual Declaration was amended over the next two days, and was finally approved by the Continental Congress on July 4th. Most of the 56 delegates actually signed the Declaration on August 2nd.

“Who Has an All-in-One Printer?” – We are spoiled nowadays by our computer printers that can scan, fax, print and photocopy. Imagine the poor souls who had to make copies of the original Declaration of Independence. They needed exact replicas for each of the 13 colonies to approve, and then other copies for legal notices, newspapers, etc. Hundreds of copies were made, but it’s believed only 26 still exist.

“It’s a Holiday!” – The Fourth of July was around for almost 100 years before it became a holiday. In 1870 Congress made it a day off, but without pay. In 1938 Congress voted again, and made it a paid federal holiday.

What are your favorite July 4th memories? Just click the comment button at

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

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“The Sunday Political Brunch” – June 24, 2014


(Providence, Rhode Island) – The most intriguing political story in the United States this past week came from the smallest state. Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, Jr., is running for Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, again. After serving as Mayor for 21 years – during two different stints that both ended in criminal conviction and resignation – Cianci is back for a third go, running as an independent. There is a lot of “Brunch” to chew on here:

“The Art of Political Forgiveness” – First of all, I wrote a column on Sunday, May 4, 2014, in which I laid out the historic pattern of political “forgiveness” American voters have bestowed upon failed leaders at the local state and federal level. So if you think Cianci is the exception to the rule, he’s not:

“Independence Day” – No, I’m not talking about July 4th; I am talking about what freed Cianci to run as an independent this year. Even up until about 3:40 pm on Wednesday, it was not yet certain Buddy would run as an independent, or - for the first time - as a Democrat. The Cianci camp was watching the last-minute maneuvering of candidate Lorne Adrain, who was previously declared as a Democrat. If both ran as Democrats, it would have been a five-way primary race among the main candidates, with two “last-minute Charlie’s” jumping in. It was looking like a seven-person primary, but Adrain switched to independent at the eleventh hour, and so did Buddy. This may seem like minutiae, but it could give Cianci a huge tactical advantage. He avoids the primary fray, and saves his campaign cash until November, when the Democratic nominee may be wounded and broke by comparison.

“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” – Cianci runs hot and cold. There is no middle ground. People either love him or hate him. The Good: He and the late Governor Bruce Sundlun (and others) get wide praise for the renaissance of development in Downtown Providence in the 1990s, including the centerpiece Providence Place Mall. In a nation where city centers have died in many places, Providence blossomed. The Bad: Cianci was forced from office in 1984 because of an assault charge, accused of beating a man he suspected of having an affair with his wife. Cianci came back in 1990, only to be sent to prison in 2002 after being found guilty of one racketeering conspiracy charge. The Ugly: The Mayor’s race could affect every other race in Rhode Island this year, especially the one for Governor. Every candidate is being asked, “Where do you stand on Cianci?” Is it fair? No. Is it reality? Yes.

“Missing the Party” – Now the three main Democrats must focus on the September 9th primary. They are City Council President Michael Solomon; Housing Court Judge Jorge Elorza; and Water Board Member Brett Smiley. “Who?” you ask. Theirs are not exactly household names. Yes, gadfly Chris Young is in the race, too, and a couple of other ringers, but you know this is essentially a three-person race for the Democratic nomination. Meantime, all independent candidates – Cianci included - skip the primary and head straight to the November election.

“The Dead Can’t Vote” – For all the positives for Cianci, there are steep downsides. Senior citizens love Buddy and have helped him for years. Buddy is now 73 years old. Here’s where the problem lies. Anyone age 60-plus who voted when Cianci was first elected as a Republican in 1974, would now be 100 years old and is, in all likelihood, dead. Anyone age 60-plus who voted in Buddy’s huge 1990 comeback, would now be at least 84 years old, if still alive. Buddy last ran in 1998, so those 60-year-olds are now 76 plus (or dead). He was popular “back in the day,” but what about now?

“Buddy Who?” – On the other end of the demographic spectrum, many young voters have little knowledge or experience with Cianci. For example, voters who turn 18 this year and can cast a ballot were just six years old when Cianci last served and was then sent off to prison. By comparison, the other most viable candidates are much younger: Smiley is 34; Elorza, 37; and Solomon, 57. Certainly the many years he’s spent as a radio and TV commentator give him greater name recognition, even among those who don’t remember him as Mayor. Still, Cianci will have to mount an aggressive campaign on social media if he expects to garner a share of the youngest voters.

“Espanol” – The demographics of Providence have also changed dramatically since Buddy was last in office. From the 2000 U.S. Census to the 2010 Census, the Hispanic population of Providence increased by 42 percent. The city is now 38 percent Hispanic. That proved a big advantage for Angel Taveras, the city’s first Latino Mayor, and now a candidate for Governor. If Jorge Elorza becomes the Democratic nominee for Mayor this year, it will give him an edge, too. Cianci (and other non-Latino candidates) will need an effective Hispanic outreach operation to win.

“Why All this Matters” – I basically heard two voices this week. On one hand, many supporters and detractors alike were saying, “Buddy’s got it. He’ll win hands down!” On the other hand, ardent critics say, “He’s part of the city’s past; this election is about the future. There’s no way, people will elect Cianci!” The glaring overconfidence I saw on both sides was stunning. This race is by no means a slam dunk in either direction. The bottom line is that Buddy is a serious, viable contender in this race. He has a real shot, but not a guarantee. Just remember: In 1974 he was first elected as a Republican by just 722 votes (against a fractured Democratic party). In his 1990 comeback race, he won as an independent by just 317 votes. So, he does well in a big field in a divided city. Sound familiar? The 2014 race is shaping up very similar to 1974 and 1990.

(Editor’s note: As many readers know, Cianci is my co-worker at WLNE-TV, although he is now on a leave of absence. Today’s column is in no way an endorsement, nor do I ever endorse any candidates, in any race. This is political analysis – pure and simple – based on past polling data, demographic statistics, and past and current events. It’s going to be a fascinating race).

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: Mark Curtis, ABC6 News.

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