Landslide victories were in place Tuesday night, as Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson and Ward 8 candidate Joseph Gallucci won their Democratic primary races by more than 70 percent.
With 560 votes, Vella-Wilkinson was triumphant over first-time candidate Paul Machado, who reeled in 209 votes, while Gallucci beat newcomer Luis Aponte Jr. with 448 to 176 votes.
Both winners celebrated with at least 45 people at their campaign headquarters on Jefferson Boulevard, which they share with K. Joseph Shekarchi, Democratic candidate in the District 23 race for State Representative.
Notable guests included Council President Bruce Place, Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis, Tom Chadronet, who won the Ward 2 seat, as he ran unopposed, plus Gallucci’s brother, current Ward 8 Councilman Ray Gallucci.
“All our hard work paid off,” Ray said. Travis added, “I’m very excited for Joe and Camille. They deserve it.”
The results were in before 8:30 p.m., with congratulations in order for Gallucci first. His children, grandchildren and wife, Maryanne, were in attendance.
“It was a challenge for me coming back after 18 years and with all your help we’re halfway there,” said Gallucci, who faces Republican Lyn Jennings in the general election. He has 12 years of council service under his belt, including a stint as council president. “We look forward to the November election and hopefully we can be successful again to represent all of you in the city of Warwick.”
Applause for Vella-Wilkinson’s win followed within a few minutes when her son, Ian, entered the building with results from the Rhode Island Army National Guard on Airport Road, one of the polling locations in Ward 3. Her husband, Ken, was there to share in her victory.
The support from her family, she said, helped make her campaign successful. She also feels it makes her a better councilperson.
“I don’t think you can do the job appropriately if you don’t have the full support of your family because it is so time consuming,” Vella-Wilkinson said. “It was wonderful for me to be able to go to the different polls and see Ian and Ken involved.”
Further, she offered words of kindness to Machado.
“I’ve got to say when you consider that Paul was an unknown candidate, his numbers are very good,” she said. “I’d like to see more young Democrats get in the game and have their voices heard.”
Vella-Wilkinson cast a vote for herself at the Army National Guard at 7 a.m., along with Ken. Later on in the day, she re-visited the site, plus the three other polling places in her ward. She stopped at each location at least twice.
In between, she visited her headquarters and dealt with constituent questions and issues, as well as attended a meeting.
“It was regular business as a councilperson,” she said. “I’m not going to put my constituents on the back burner. The election is about me wanting to get into the seat again but in the meantime, I’m not going to let my responsibilities wait 24 hours while I go around and shake peoples’ hands. You’re dealing with the quality of peoples’ lives. You can’t say, ‘I’m too busy.’”
While at headquarters, Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo paid her a visit and wished her luck.
“Camille is a smart cookie,” she said. “She’s a hard worker who wants to do the right thing.”
During her campaign in 2010, Raimondo used the same building as her headquarters. As she made her entrance Tuesday, she joked, “Anyone who campaigns here wins.”
Machado, who tallied his votes at the National Guard building, said while he is disappointed he didn’t win, his spirits are high. He said constituents praised him for his efforts while at various polling locations.
“I had one guy come up to me and talk to me for about 20 minutes about how much he appreciates me,” Machado said. “Just knowing that someone believes in me makes me feel good.”
Machado said he’s not sure if he’ll plan on attending future council meetings but would like to become more involved in local politics. He added, “We’ll see you in two years,” implying he will again seek election in 2014.
Aponte, who tallied his votes at Sparrow Point, said he, too, plans to stay active. In fact, he said he would love to meet with Gallucci for coffee and discuss ideas to better the city.
“Gallucci’s a good guy and I hope he helps the city and makes it flourish more,” he said. “I’m sure he will voice the concerns of the community and do a good job.”
Like Vella-Wilkinson, Gallucci visited all four primary locations in his ward a few times to chat with voters. After his win, he said his ultimate goal if elected is to “service and help people with any and all issues regarding government. I feel we have to do as much as possible for our seniors who have given so much, and certainly for veterans.”
In terms of individuals who operated the polls, many of them would like to have seen more voters. Vella-Wilkinson agrees.
“I’m disappointed that the numbers [were] as low as they [were] citywide,” she said.
Heidi Bennett, Spanish teacher at Pilgrim High School, who runs the ASF Club Exchange Program, said there was a steady stream of voters at the National Guard building, where she works. By 4:45 p.m., they pulled in 286 votes.
The East Natick Veterans Club raked in 131 votes.
“It’s discouraging in a way because people don’t feel that the primary is that important,” said Supervisor Dale Feldon. “In the long run, it is more important because this is when you have to bring the ones you really want in. And you don’t see the young people voting as much.”
As of 6:50 p.m., Shalom Apartments reeled in 250 voters, said Clerk Carmen Harvey. She noted that most voters were senior citizens.
By 7:35 p.m., Lippitt Elementary School was at 295 votes.
“We thought there’d be more, but usually a lot of people don’t come out for the primary,” said 75-year-old Supervisor Nancy Carberry, who has been helping at polls since she was 21. “I enjoy it. I always work with nice people.”
Supervisor Bunny Gill noted that she thought it was a pretty good turnout considering the fact that there were 31 polling locations throughout the city.
“You have to take that into account,” she said. “If we’re at more than 250 and a few others are, too, than that’s good.”
Aponte, whose children and wife, Barbara, visited polling places and stood outside with signs and palm cards Tuesday, said he was impressed with the people who served at the polls. He feels they deserve some credit.
“The people at the polls are great,” he said. “They’ve been there since the morning and are still smiling and helping people out.”
Gallucci and Vella-Wilkinson said they are thrilled of their victories and plan to continue to walk the ward. Vella-Wilkinson said she’s eager to meet Republican families she didn’t get a chance to visit.
“I want to hear from them, as well,” she said. “Their voice needs to be heard.”