Council candidates gear up for Tuesday primary
Primary elections are five days away and candidates are pounding the pavement and meeting voters in hopes of becoming elected officials.
Some will automatically become – or remain – in office, while others will go on to compete in the general election.
In terms of the City Council, there are two Democratic primaries, one in Ward 3, the other in Ward 8.
Incumbent Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson faces newcomer Paul Machado. The winner will be the next councilperson, as no other candidates have filed for the office.
Also, candidates Joseph Gallucci, a former councilman, and Luis Aponte Jr., a Capitol police officer at the State House in Providence, are vying for the seat of Ward 8 councilman. The victor will go on to oppose Republican Lyn Jennings.
In the Ward 3 contest, Machado, a master electrician, is concerned with advocating for animals, public safety and keeping a grip on both property and car taxes.
Machado, who is self-funding his campaign, said he will visit the four different polling locations, including Lippitt Elementary School at 30 Almy Street, the Greenwood Community Church Presbyterian at 805 Main Avenue, the Greenwood Volunteer Fire Company and Museum at 45 Kernick Street, and the Rhode Island National Guard Armory at 541 Airport Road on primary day.
“I’m feeling really, really good,” Machado said. “The more time I spend on this, the better I feel and the more people like me. More people are getting a feel for me.”
Both he and Vella-Wilkinson said constituents frequently mention T.F. Green Airport during their walks of the ward. Vella-Wilkinson, who served as the chair of the Airport Litigation Committee, said if she’s elected, she plans to continue to build a strong relationship with the airport.
“It’s very important, especially for the councilperson in Ward 3,” she said. “The airport is our biggest resident.”
Also, she hopes to get the opportunity to continue to focus on economic development, bringing in companies in order to bring in more jobs, environmental issues, and working on the vacant home problem, which she would like to remedy via a program that aims to place military veterans in abandoned properties that have been refurbished.
“People are excited about this new idea with the veterans,” she said. “They like the idea of filling the empty houses and bringing more veterans into the area. They consider it to be a good sign that the economy is looking up.”
Further, Vella-Wilkinson said the feedback she has been getting has been “very positive.” She is pleased that people remember that she suggested a big budget cut in 2010, her first budget session.
On primary day, she will visit each of the polling locations and attend meetings she has booked as part of her current council responsibilities.
Once the election is over, she said, it’s important to “work across the isle.”
“Party lines are important during campaign season. After that, they disappear and they have to,” said Vella-Wilkinson. “We don’t worry about who’s a Democrat and who’s a Republican. You’ve got to work together for the city.”
In terms of the Ward 8 primary, Gallucci and Aponte are both interested in focusing on senior citizens. Aponte said the elderly, along with education, are his top priorities.
“A lot of people have been complaining about taxes, especially the elderly,” said Aponte, who is self-funding his campaign. “They struggle to survive and something has to be sought out. In Coventry, I think they froze property taxes for the elderly. They don’t want to leave their homes and we should help them out. They’ve already paid their dues and this is the part of their lives they should be cherishing and enjoying.”
Moreover, education is paramount to him. He feels that “a good education is the road to success.”
“We have to make sure these children are getting the best education we can afford,” Aponte said. “There’s no reason why a kid in another town should be getting better educations in public schools – they are all public schools and they should all be the same. We should have the same criteria.”
Road repairs and making the city of Warwick “flourish” as both a business and residential community are additional interests.
“We have to make it so people want to open up their business here,” he said. “We have to make it more affordable for these places. We need to make Warwick a place people want to come and a place they want to live.”
Throughout his campaign, he says he feels it’s time for change and that “the old way of thinking isn’t the right way.” If elected, he said he plans to make government more open and accountable to the people of the city.
With that said, as a 22-year member of Council 94, he isn’t thrilled that Gallucci was recently endorsed by Council 94.
“It’s disheartening that they cannot support me after 22 years,” Aponte said. “They never asked me in for an interview. It seems to be one of those backroom deals that I’m fighting against. They don’t give anybody a chance and it’s wrong. That’s why I’m running. We’ve got to stop that.”
On primary day, he will visit polling locations at Scott Elementary School at 833 Centerville Road, Sparrow’s Point Apartments at 311 Hardig Road, Shalom Apartments at 1 Shalom Drive, and the East Natick Vets Club at 17 Baker St.
Additionally, he will continue to walk the ward.
While Aponte has never served as a councilman, Gallucci, a lifelong Warwick resident, is a former councilman who served for a total of 12 years. In that time, he was council president for eight years. His first stint was from 1977 to 1984, and then again from 1990 to 1994. He ran for mayor, as well.
Gallucci’s credentials don’t end there, as he recently retired as director of elections for the city of Warwick, is a former director for the Department of Human Services, was an ITT marketing manager for 35 years, and also served in the National Guard for 22 years and retired as a Lt. Colonel.
Most recently, he was appointed treasurer of the Kent County Water Authority, and is on the JONAH board, as well as Ethan Place Assisted Living board.
This experience, said Gallucci, makes him a valuable candidate.
“I go mostly on my background,” he said. “I bring a lot of history. In 1976, there was an $8.6 million deficit and we worked under the leadership of [former Mayor] Joe Walsh to eliminate that deficit.”
If elected, he hopes to stabilize taxes, as well as focus on public health and safety. For now, he will continue to walk the ward and make phone calls to wrap up his campaign.
“I’m very partial to our city and I feel as if the city is well run,” he said. “Do we address the issues that come before us? Yes, we do.”