PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Kobi Dennis, a well-known community advocate and founder of Unified Solutions, confirmed Tuesday he is considering a challenge to Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza next year.
Dennis, 46, has not opened a campaign account with the R.I. Board of Elections to begin fundraising, but he told Eyewitness News he is eyeing dates to publicly announce his candidacy. He took to Facebook Monday evening to say he was “unofficially” campaigning at a city barbershop, a post that was “liked” by his friends more than 175 times.
Voting records show Dennis is a registered Democrat who lives in Ward 5, which includes the Elmhurst and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods.
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Elorza, a first-term Democrat who has already said he plans to run for a second and final term for mayor next year, won a contentious primary against then-City Council President Michael Solomon, going on to defeat former Mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. in the general election in 2014. (Solomon, who was considering challenging Elorza next year, now works as a senior advisor to the mayor.)
The city’s political chattering class has long identified Dennis as a potential challenger to Elorza and Dennis has repeatedly hinted that he is considering running for mayor. In a recent Facebook post, he suggested Elorza had little community support for the city’s midnight basketball program, an initiative Dennis led in recent years.
At other times, Dennis has heaped praised on Elorza as someone who is engaged in the community. In a 2016 Rhode Island Monthly profile on the mayor, Dennis said Elorza has “been the best listener of someone in his position that I’ve ever met.”
Dennis grew up on the South Side and served in the Navy between 1989 and 1993, according to a 2011 profile published by Providence Monthly. He is the founder of Project Night Vision, a nonprofit after-school program designed to support teenagers between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. He has since founded Unified Solutions, a collaboration of community organizations that has a partnership with Roger Williams University.
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