Pols who run on their convictions

Some felons make a comeback, some don't

WASHINGTON, D.C. - For connoisseurs of political mischief, there’s no doubt what the story of the past week or so is: Buddy Cianci is running for mayor of Providence, R.I., again.

For those political muggles out there who may not remember Buddy, a primer: Vincent Albert Cianci Jr. was first elected mayor of Providence in 1974 as a Republican at the tender age of 33. He was reelected in 1978 and 1982.  But his third term was interrupted when he pled no contest to assault charges. Buddy took a lit cigarette to a man he claimed was too buddy-buddy with Mrs. Cianci. He received a five-year suspended sentence and became a talk show host.

In 1998, Buddy ran for mayor again, unopposed! This time he was undone by the feds and an investigation with the fabulous codename Operation Plunder Dome. Buddy was convicted of one count of racketeering conspiracy, acquitted of 26 other charges.  

Buddy got out of prison and gave up his famous toupee.  This week, as a proud bald man, Buddy announced he was running for mayor. An editorial in the local paper said Buddy throws a “stink bomb” in to the race. But Buddy has his fans and not everyone is betting against him.

There is actually quite an undistinguished lineage of convicted felons who have attempted comebacks – some successfully, some not.

Edwin Edwards

Edwards is the former Louisiana governor who gave us one of our great political quotes. "The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy," he said in 1983. He won. Later he served eight years in prison for racketeering. He’s back in Louisiana and running for Congress.

Marion Barry

Barry was the second elected mayor in Washington, D.C., and served from 1979 to 1991. But in 1990 Barry was caught on video smoking crack cocaine. He spent six months in prison and was reelected mayor in 1994. Really. Barry is now on the city council of the capital city.

James Traficant

Traficant, a Democrat from Ohio, was one of the great loudmouths of the House of Representatives, known for his rabid and weird one-minute orations on the House floor. His career hit a bump in the road when he was convicted of taking bribes and kickbacks. After seven years in prison, he ran for Congress again, a couple of times.  But he couldn’t overcome his record.

Ike Carothers

Isaac “Ike” Carothers was a Chicago alderman for 11 years who ended up doing two years in prison for bribery and tax fraud.  Earlier this year he ran for the Cook County Board.  What makes Carothers special in this pantheon is that his father also was convicted of taking bribes 30 years earlier.

Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Buddy Cianci's second conviction. That has has been corrected and I apologize for the mistake.

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