Not since the days of the Rocky Point Palladium and former mayors Joe Walsh and Frank Flaherty has there been a turnout for a Warwick Democratic mayoral candidate like there was Thursday for Acting Mayor Joseph Solomon.
The atrium at the Crowne Plaza was elbow to elbow with Democrats, Republicans, independents, contractors, developers, union leaders, local and state officials, city employees and, yes, even former elected officials. At the entrance to the room, checks were collected – $125 a ticket – and Solomon greeted guests. The line backed up into the corridor and it took as long as 20 minutes to get into the room. Solomon said Monday about 500 people attended at the event.
“It’s fantastic,” said former Ward 5 Councilman Carlo Pisaturo, “If this is an indication, Joe is going to be our next mayor. I haven’t seen a crowd like this in years.”
Kelly Coates, president of Carpionato Properties that owns the Crowne Plaza and is looking to build additional buildings on the hotel site as well as re-develop the former Benny’s properties in the city, likened the event to a changing of the guard. “It’s out with the old and in with the new,” he said.
“The turnout is great. Local 1651 showed up in support of the new mayor,” said Scott Small, president of the Warwick Municipal Employees. Small said he is “looking forward to the change.” City Solicitor Peter Ruggiero said he was “impressed” by the crowd and Darlene Netcoh, president of the Warwick Teachers Union, called it a “good showing.”
Republican Scott Avedisian has held the mayor’s corner office for more than 18 years. Consistently he has won reelection capturing every polling district, even though the city votes Democratic and over the years the Republicans have lost all representation on the City Council and General Assembly. In a surprise move, as it came before completion of his term in office, Avedisian announced in April he would accept the post of CEO of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority. He starts the job on June 1. That action set up Council President Solomon as acting mayor. He has announced he is a candidate for the job.
“This is a tremendous outpouring of support,” declared Ward 2 Councilman Jeremy Rix. Ward 8 Councilman Joseph Gallucci, who had worked to make the fundraiser a success, smiled in awe as people pushed into the room.
His brother Ray, who formerly represented the ward, was also beaming. He was excited that former Rhode Island General Treasurer Anthony Solomon, uncle of the acting mayor, was in the audience. Gallucci, weaving through the crowd, knew just where to find him, too.
The elder Solomon said of his nephew, “The people of Warwick will be really proud of him. I think they’ll be very happy that he puts his whole heart and soul into it.”
Former state Representative Robert Flaherty saw the change in administrations as a “great opportunity for Warwick.” Home developer Hugh Fisher doesn’t see much of a contest for mayor.
Democrat Richard Corrente has announced he is running again, but so far no other candidates have indicated they would run. No Republican candidate has announced.
“He could be here forever,” said Fisher.
Some of Avedisian’s and the council’s most vocal critics, Roger Durand and former councilman Robert Cushman were also in the crowd.
Cushman suggested Solomon had already displayed wisdom in holding the fundraiser prior to budget hearings that start tonight.
Realtor Donald Morash, a regular at Avedisian fundraisers, was awed by the turnout, yet was cautious how the election process might turnout.
“It’s early to tell,” he said adding that Solomon, “Has a good start and this is not $25 [fundraiser] either.”
David McKay, who once was involved in the Democratic Party and ventured he hadn’t attended a fundraiser in ten years or more, was there because he’s a friend with Solomon.
“I think Joe is going to be a good mayor,” he said, “he has heart and he cares about his people.”
Congressman Jim Langevin called the event “fabulous,” adding that the turnout was a showing of Democratic unification.
Former Mayor Walsh observed Solomon has made a lot of friends in his 18 years on the city council. “People have confidence in his abilities.”
Solomon said he was humbled by the event.
“It is great to see this much support from the city,” he said. Solomon said he is looking for input and he is turning to his department directors because they know what needs to be done. He said he listens and that they “have great ideas.”
GREETING THE MANY: Acting Mayor Joseph Solomon greets Joseph Piscopio at the fundraiser held Thursday at the Crowne Plaza. (Warwick Beacon photos)
PACKED IN: More than 200 people filled the atrium at the Crowne Plaza in support of Acting Mayor Joseph Solomon who has announced he is a candidate for mayor.
MAKING CONNECTIONS: Kelly Coates, president of Carpionato Properties; William DePasquale, City Planner and the mayor’s chief of staff and attorney John Revens at Thursday’s fundraiser.
TALKING POLITICS: Former Mayor Joseph Walsh expounds on the political scene with Seth Klaiman and Congressman Jim Langevin. Klaiman manages Langevin’s Rhode Island office.