Mark Patinkin: Angel Taveras heads for the mayor’s job in Providence
Tuesday, 12 October 2010 08:51
The Providence Journal
Sunday, October 10, 2010
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It was raining as Angel Taveras, 40, Democratic nominee for mayor of Providence, walked into La Salle Bakery on Smith Street last Monday around 5 p.m. Coincidentally, I remember seeing him at a similar moment at a bakery on the East Side a week before the primary. It was crowded that day, but not a soul seemed to recognize him as he had coffee with an aide.
It was different now. People did a second take and then approached.
“I hope you win the election,” said a middle-aged man. Others — most of them white in this blue-collar neighborhood — approached and said similar things. Taveras, who faces no Republican opponent and one under-funded independent named Jonathan Scott, is likely to be the first Latino mayor of Providence.
He asked for a ginger ale and a chocolate pudding cake. Taveras never drinks alcohol, but chocolate, he says, is a guilty indulgence. He has another reason for ordering it: The campaign pace has caused him to lose 15 pounds. He’s 6-feet and down to 156.
For someone in the thick of urban politics, Taveras has an unexpectedly mild air. He has used the catch-phrase, “from Head Start to Harvard” — but most don’t know he did his first year of college after Classical High at Dartmouth. He transferred because he wasn’t into the frat culture up there, and missed city life.
Another middle-aged white male approached. “I’m glad you did such a number on those other two guys,” the supporter said. Indeed, Taveras got almost 50 percent of the primary vote over two political pros: City Council veteran John Lombardi and longtime State Rep. Steven Constantino. Both are now backing Taveras.
These days, he starts most mornings at 6 a.m., jogging along Pleasant Valley Parkway, and often goes nonstop until 11 p.m.
Taveras lives not far from La Salle Bakery in Mount Pleasant. But he grew up in the inner city Lockwood Plaza public housing project with his mother, sister and brother until he was 14.
“It could get rough,” he said. One day, there were gunshots. He would hear domestic violence in nearby apartments. When asked how he got through that, he said: “You realize how lucky you are to have a mother like I have.” She worked in factories, he added, and put her kids ahead of everything else.