Seventeen months ago when Mayor Joseph Solomon held his first major public fundraiser, the crowd that packed the atrium at the Crowne Plaza buzzed that it was the largest turnout for a Democratic mayoral candidate since the ’80s. The good old days were back. Party regulars were heady.
Tuesday evening the throngs were back, only this time few were surprised they had to wait 10 minutes to greet Solomon at the door or that once inside it took them 20 minutes to get to the cheese table if, in fact, they could find it.
“It’s a good little crowd,” said Nick DelSesto as he squeezed against Carlo Pisaturo.
It had to be the understatement of the night from a man who lives in Ward 4, which Solomon represented for 18 years before, as City Council president. He was named acting mayor when Republican Scott Avedisian resigned in May of 2018 to become president and CEO of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.
True to character, Pisaturo, a former Ward 5 Councilman who Solomon named to serve of the Warwick Sewer Authority observed in more colorful terms, “Joe’s got the bull by the horns.”
Like the first reception/fundraiser since he stepped into the corner office at City Hall, many attendees were municipal workers and elected officials. Warwick firefighters and police were well represented. The party faithful was also in attendance, but so too were members of the business and nonprofit communities.
For Jennifer McGee, who has returned to Rhode Island after working for years in the Washington political scene, it was a homecoming.
“I’ve been away for 20 years,” she said, “and these things [political fundraisers] don’t change at all.”
Beside her stood Ann Gooding, who stayed in Rhode Island all those years working as a communications specialist for elected officials and the state Democratic Party. Gooding knows the players.
She was impressed by the turnout, judging it as genuine support. Asked what she sees as Solomon’s major challenge, without hesitation she said “schools.” She wasn’t referring to the perennial battle over the school budget, but rather how Warwick schools have slipped and no longer have the reputation they once had. Warwick schools were once a reason why young families moved to the city, but not now.
Former Republican Representative and independent candidate for governor, Joseph Trillo, chose not to answer the greatest challenge question. Trillo was a surprise attendee. What was he doing at a fundraiser for a Democrat?
“I think he’s doing a good job. He’s very much a hands on mayor,” he said.
No surprisingly, on the other hand, was the presence of former state Treasurer Anthony Solomon, the mayor’s uncle.
Solomon said his nephew is faced with many issues adding, “He’s done a lot…he’s got an agenda and he’s moving forward for the people of Warwick.”
Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur offered an appraisal of Solomon’s performance saying he is cautious and doing his homework before launching any initiatives. Overall, he termed Solomon’s performance “positive” and that he and the council are working for the same goals.
As for Solomon, who barely moved 10 feet into the room the entire night – there were no speeches, just a personal welcome at the door – the evening was a success. He said he was buoyed by the turnout as he views it as affirmation of the “positive” things he is seeking to do.