Activist Yurdin targets Ward One council seat

Talking Politics, Pt. 1
By IAN DONNIS  |  June 28, 2006

In 2002, David Segal emerged victorious in a four-way City Council race in Providence’s Ward One, becoming the first and only Green Party member to win election in Rhode Island. This time around, with Segal moving on to run as a Democrat for the House seat being vacated by Paul Moura, voters face a choice between two distinctly different Democratic transplants to the ward.

The latest entry is lawyer Seth Yurdin, 38, who formally unveiled his campaign with a June 21 gathering at the Wild Colonial. A native of Long Island, New York, who settled on the East Side in 1999, Yurdin has built an eclectic resume encompassing community service and political activism. He leads the Rhode Island chapter of the progressive grassroots group Democracy for America, for example, serves on the board of the Fox Point Citizens Association, and traveled to Mississippi with the local chapter of the American Red Cross to manage a shelter for residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Yurdin says the latter experience showed him, “[I] could be at the point and on the frontlines to help people,” and that the council post represents an opportunity to help the neighborhood. It doesn’t hurt that Governor Street resident — who emphasizes the issues of schools, community-based development, and environmental protection — enjoys the backing of Segal and Moura, as well as such neighborhood leaders as Harry Bilodeau and David Riley, among a bevy of other residents listed on his host committee.

Ethan Ris, a May 2005 Brown University graduate who unveiled his own Democratic campaign for the Ward One seat last October, welcomed Yurdin to the race. “He’s making me step up my game to a certain extent,” says Ris, a native of Washington, DC. Asked about Yurdin’s broader resume, Ris says, “He’s certainly older than me — there’s nothing I can do to change that.” The young Democrat, a teacher at the Met School, a former president of the Brown Democrats, and a former fellow at City Hall, asserts, however, that he has “spent a lot more time in the real world of Providence.”

Yurdin, who passed the Rhode Island bar earlier this year and has a legal office in Richmond Square, says he has established strong roots in Providence since being drawn to the city from Boston seven years ago. Asked to compare himself with Ris, he says, “I’ll let the voters make the decision about the differences,” based on their respective records.

With an intense amount of interest in Providence Council races this year — most of the 15 seats are being contested — a leading subtext is Mayor David N. Cicilline’s extent of support for candidates sympathetic to his administration. Segal has been among the mayor’s leading skeptics. Ris, who says he has repeatedly sought the mayor’s support, believes Cicilline is likely to back him if he wins the endorsement of the ward committee. Asked about the mayor’s influence on the race, Yurdin says, “I think the race is really up to the voters of Ward One to decide.”

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