One candidate is a former councilman and the other is seeking office for the first time. Both are Democrats.
Joseph Gallucci, who served on the council for 12 years, and Luis Aponte Jr., a Capitol Police Officer at the State House in Providence, will face off in a primary one week from today. The winner will oppose Republican Lyn Jennings for the seat of Ward 8 councilperson.
Each of them has been walking the ward, passing out palm cards, and visiting senior housing facilities, such as Sparrow’s Point and similar communities.
If elected, they both plan to focus on the needs of senior citizens and the working class, as well as keeping spending to a minimum.
They differ in experience, as Aponte is a newcomer, while Gallucci served as Ward 8 councilman from 1977 to 1984 and again from 1990 to 1994, and was council president for eight years. He also ran for mayor.
“My concentration is totally on this race and getting re-elected after 18 years,” Gallucci said. “There’s been a good succession of council people that represented the ward through the years after me.”
Aponte said he thinks it’s time for a new name in the ward.
“Times are changing and it seems like it’s the same old philosophy – raise taxes, raise taxes,” said Aponte. “With all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen taxes go down. They are always going up. I want to bring my thoughts to the table and hopefully, that will initiate change. There has to be a better way.”
Aponte, originally from upstate New York, has been a Capitol Police Officer for 13 years. He describes himself as a family man, as he and his wife of seven years, Barbara, have a blended family.
Each of them has two children. They are Justin and Kayla Cordeiro and Luis Christopher Aponte III, and Tori-Alexis Aponte. The first three are adults, while Tori-Alexis is a student at Toll Gate. They’ve been living in Warwick for nearly 20 years.
“I moved here because I thought Toll Gate was one of the top schools in the state and it’s disheartening to learn that our schools aren’t the top ones in the state,” he said.
If elected, he says he plans to “focus on the future,” meaning he wants to invest in schools. He believes the road to success is through education and hopes to make it a priority that local students get an education that’s just as good as other schools, including charter schools.
“People talk about charter schools but it’s all about rolling the dice to see who gets in – who’s privileged, who’s not,” Aponte said. “I can’t afford to send my kids to Hendricken or La Salle. I need to send them to Toll Gate, so why can’t Toll Gate be just as good as any other public school? Why isn’t Pilgrim just as good as Exeter or West Greenwich public schools? What are they doing that we’re not doing?”
He suggested studying nearby municipalities to learn how to improve Warwick schools.
“I don’t mean we should go hire somebody like the state does – let’s make phone calls and talk to people,” said Aponte. “Let’s figure out what they are doing right. If it’s a money issue let’s find a way to get funding. If it’s the books, let’s update our books. If it’s the teachers, have their teachers come talk to ours and let us know what we’re doing wrong.”
Further, Aponte said residents have been telling him they are frustrated with taxes. Particularly, they aren’t pleased with car and property taxes.
“Homeowners, car owners and the elderly can’t live,” he said. “The elderly have already paid their dues. We should be trying to help them, not taking away from them.”
While he hasn’t attended any Warwick council meetings, he said walking the ward, in addition to being at the State House all the time for work, has given him an inside look at “what’s going on,” and made him want to throw his hat in the ring and seek office.
“Hearing about the car taxes and how people were being shut out of meetings unable to voice their opinions I said, ‘That’s enough,’” said Aponte. “Obviously, the [elected officials] don’t have the people in mind when they are making these votes. They don’t hear what the people have to say and that’s wrong. I’m running to be that voice. They keep raising taxes and that’s wrong. There has to be a way to bring money into Warwick instead of taking money from the people who live in Warwick. The people living here are being taken advantage of and I don’t want to run away from the problem.”
Instead, he wants to try to find a solution and intends to stand up for what’s “right.”
“I’m not a typical politician; I don’t blow smoke,” he said. “I’m a constituent running for office and I want to see things done differently. I want the community to be running the government, not the government running the community.”
Aponte, who earned an associate’s degree in electronics from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, as well as an associate’s degree in computers from the Community College of Rhode Island, said his experience as an officer has helped him build a strong set of values, which he can use as a councilman. He said his assets include integrity, honesty and the ability to make the right decisions.
“You have to be a leader,” he said. “You can’t follow along with the good old boys and you’ve got to be able to make the right decision – your own decision,” he said. “And you have to make sure it’s not about self-interest. As a councilman, my interest has to be to make the best decision for my community, not for myself. I want to see my city flourish. I want to make it worthwhile for businesses to want to open up here and for people to say, ‘Hey. Let’s go to Warwick. They have so much going on over there.’ Let’s figure out a way to use our resources to bring people here.”
Aponte is self-funding his campaign for the time being. However, he plans to hold a fundraiser if he wins the primary.
“I don’t feel right taking money from people if I don’t win the primary,” he said.
As for Gallucci, a lifelong Warwick resident who recently retired as director of elections for the city of Warwick, held a fundraiser at the Crowne Plaza Hotel last Tuesday and raised $7,075. More than 125 people attended, including his brother Ray, who currently serves on the council, as well as other council members including Joseph Solomon, Donna Travis, Bruce Place and Camille Vella-Wilkinson, who Gallucci shares headquarter space on Jefferson Boulevard.
His wife, Maryanne, two of his three sons, Joe Jr. and Frank, his daughter-in-law, Rosa Maria, and his two teenage granddaughters, Joanna and Maria, were also there in support of his campaign.
“It was a great turn out,” Gallucci said toward the tail end of the event. “I’m very satisfied.”
Also, Gallucci said Council 94, as well as the Warwick Teachers Union, have recently endorsed him.
If elected, he said he plans to “address issues that are conducive to the signs of the time.” He provided examples of interest but didn’t want to get too detailed.
“In my opinion, public health, safety and welfare are paramount to any issue,” Gallucci said. “That was always my thing in the past. And we can’t forget the average, everyday working person.”
The elderly is also a concern. He recently held an informational breakfast at Shalom Apartments, a complex for senior citizens to reintroduce himself to the population.
“We have in our city roughly 82,000 people by the census and 34,000 are over the age of 65,” Gallucci said. “That’s 42 or 43 percent.”
Also, he’s had more than 2,000 palm cards printed and has been passing out other campaign items like brochures, pillboxes, potholders and refrigerator magnets.
“It’s to get my name out there,” Gallucci said. “We did everything we thought necessary to win the election. We’re not lavish spenders, but it is expensive to run when you do all these things.”
Further, he has sent mailings to citizens who have been affected by redistricting and census blocks. This, he said, will better help them understand which polling location they need to attend.
He was mum on whether or not he’d like to again serve as council president, and tight-lipped about who he’d like to see get elected as council president. He also didn’t want to disclose whom he hopes will be voted into the council.
“I support Democrats on the council, but I don’t believe in alliances prior to the time that you get elected,” Gallucci said. “If we’re successful, then it goes from there.”
In addition to serving on the council, he is a former director for the Department of Human Services. Also, he was an ITT marketing manager for 35 years. He served in the National Guard for 22 years and retired as a Lt. Colonel.
These days, he’s the treasurer of the Kent County Water Authority and is focused on winning the primary.
“Hopefully, I’ll be successful in the primary and then be successful in November,” Gallucci said. “I’m running on my record and what I’ve done. My brother wanted to retire and I saw an opportunity to do more public service.”
Aponte has the same goal. He also offered readers some advice.
“Vote in the right person who you think can do the job – don’t vote for a person because of his name,” said Aponte. “And if you don’t vote for me, at least vote for change.”