You may not fully appreciate this unless you are from my former home State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

As mentioned here before, twice-convicted former Providence Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci not only is running for Mayor a third time (as an Independent), he is leading in the polls. Buddy’s first conviction during his first term as Mayor was for beating his wife’s alleged paramour with a fireplace log and assaulting him with a lit cigarette. His second conviction was for running a criminal enterprise (under the RICO statute), namely, Providence City Hall.

Mike Stanton, author of the definitive chronicle of Buddy’s years in office (The Prince of Providence book and later movie), has a column in The New York Times this weekend, Good Buddy, Bad Buddy:

Stories of the Good Buddy and the Bad Buddy are legion, and legend. He moved rivers. He took bribes. He built a mall. He was accused of raping a woman at gunpoint in law school. He championed WaterFire, the festive floating bonfires on downtown rivers. He assaulted a guy and tried to jab a lit cigarette in his eye while a police bodyguard stood by. He raised a city’s self-esteem. He turned City Hall into a cesspool. The judge who sentenced him to five years in prison, for running City Hall as a criminal enterprise, called him Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (The ever witty Buddy cracked, “He didn’t give me two [expletive] paychecks.”)

He belongs to that great American pantheon of rogues whose corruption was tolerated because of their populist appeal to voters and the perception that they “got things done” — Boss Tweed, Huey Long, James Michael Curley, Edwin Edwards…. A city is like a woman you make love to, he once said. But he was an unfaithful lover.

Yet Buddy remains a beloved figure because he was larger than life, a superb retail politician, and the man who transformed Providence from a dying industrial city into the jewel of New England.

It’s not surprising that Buddy not only has strong support, but also Buddy also has a huge cash-on-hand lead over his opponents, the Providence Journal reports:

Big money is flowing into the campaigns for the three candidates vying to succeed Angel Taveras as the next mayor of Providence.

Campaign finance records filed on Tuesday and Wednesday with the state Board of Elections show that Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr., the twice-convicted felon who is trying to return to the office he held for nearly 22 years, has raised $675,431.40 since he declared his candidacy and has $301,539.68 left, according to his latest campaign finance report….

Elorza, 37, has a total of $160,195.01 left in campaign funds, after having raised $196,584 since he won the Democratic mayoral primary early last month….

The third candidate, Daniel S. Harrop, a Republican, has $90,058, campaign records show….

The part of the ProJo story that is so, so, so classic Rhode Island is the discussion of $1,000 donors to Cianci’s campaign:

Richard Baccari II, son of developer Richard P. Baccari, of Narragansett, owner of Churchill & Banks, also contributed $1,000. Jury selection began Wednesday in the senior Baccari’s federal corruption trial in U.S. District Court in Providence. He is accused of paying a $50,000 bribe to three North Providence councilmen for favorable votes on the rezoning of land off Mineral Spring Avenue.

His son is an executive vice president at Churchill & Banks Companies LLC. The firm is also under federal indictment in the North Providence scandal for conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States. The younger Baccari is not charged with any crimes.

Almost makes me want to move back, for the entertainment. Almost.