UPDATED at 5:05 p.m. on 11-08-12: Ward 1 Councilman Steven Colantuono is re-elected after mail-in ballots were counted. He won by 19 votes. His opponent Sharon Ahearn plans to request recount.
There weren’t any big surprises Tuesday night with the results for the winners of City Council seats, however, the race for the Ward 1 council seat was a nail-biter, as Republican candidate and incumbent Steven Colantuono led Democratic candidate Sharon Ahearn by just 29 votes at about 10 p.m., with 240 uncounted mail-in ballots.
The mail ballot count is expected to be released today at noon.
While Colantuono could not be reached for comment, Ahearn said that she was feeling confident through yesterday.
“I’m floored that it was that close,” she said.
Former Ward 1 Councilman and School Committee member Bob Cushman said during a phone interview yesterday morning he believes the race was so close due to three flyers that he and about a dozen other residents of Ward 1 created and distributed prior to the election.
The first of the flyers was circulated the last week of September and accused Colantuono of seeking a third term for the sole purpose of being eligible for lifetime health care. It asserted that in 2009 he voted on legislation that would award him, and him alone, lifetime health care, a benefit that would cost taxpayers approximately $400,000. The flyer claims that during this year’s budget hearing, Colantuono voted against giving the school department an additional $400,000.
The second flyer brought to the attention of residents the fact that Colantuono introduced and voted for legislation that lowered the car tax exemption from $6,000 to $500, while the third flyer simply reads, “Nothing: That's exactly what Councilman Colantuono did to stop mandatory sewer connection in Gov. Francis Farms Phase II.”
Cushman said he, along with a group of about a dozen other people, educated the people of the ward as to the councilman’s record and influenced them to vote against Colantuono. He said they realized they did not want to vote in favor of someone who “rigged the system for his own personal benefit,” and “refused to explain why and lied about his direct involvement in the process when the Beacon questioned him on it.”
“A lot of people were upset about the issue with lifetime health care and with the car taxes,” Cushman said. “He led the charge with producing legislation for the car tax that directly hurt a lot of people [and] the issue with sewers was another thing. There were many issues that weren’t flattering to his campaign. He didn’t really want to address those issues and the flyers told the truth. We have documentation to support what was on them.”
He also feels that Ahearn’s letter to the editor that ran in the Oct. 2 edition of the Warwick Beacon in which she disavowed any affiliation with the flyers hurt her campaign.
“If she hadn’t done that, I think she would have won right out,” Cushman said. “She should have embraced what we were talking about. Instead of stating she was not involved and labeling the dozen people responsible for producing and distributing it as bashing her opponent, she should have demanded Colantuono respond to the allegations. Colantuono had so many negative issues, the car tax, sewer, lifetime health care and she did nothing to take advantage of them."
When asked if he plans to consider running for office in the future, Cushman said, “Maybe. All my options are open.”
Similarly, Ahearn said running again is also something on her mind. This election marked her first bid for office.
As for Wards 2, 3 and 9, the races had previously been decided, as Tom Chadronet and Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla ran unopposed in both the primary and general elections, while Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, a Democrat, defeated Paul Machado in the September primary.
In an interview Tuesday night at Vella-Wilkinson’s office on Post Road, Chadronet, who was accompanied by his family, said he’s looking forward to serving Ward 2. Council President Bruce Place, who serves Ward 2, did not seek re-election.
Chadronet has lived in Warwick for 35 years. Aside from keeping taxes down, issues concerning sober houses in Norwood are at the top of his list.
“I’ve already started some wheels turning on that,” he said. “There are some legal sober houses, and others that don’t have proper supervision or documentation. Someone just buys the house and rents the room out by the week.”
According to Chadronet, the zoning law reads that up to four unrelated people may live in the same house. He’s hoping to change this law and possibly reduce the number to two.
Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon, a Democrat, was successful in his race for the seat against Republican Mike Penta, who sought the position for the first time. Solomon earned 60.9 percent of the vote, with Penta earning 38.9 percent.
Moments before he voted at Shield’s Post, Solomon said he was a bit saddened that the election was coming to a close. He enjoys the hype leading up to it, as well as meeting new constituents and catching up with ones he has known for years.
Still, he’s thrilled of his win.
“I’m very happy that the people are continuing to pay attention to the results of my hard work over the years and my continued hard work in the future,” he said during a phone interview Tuesday night. “It’s going to be a great City Council going forward. We’ve got some good talent on that council and we’re going to do some good things for the city of Warwick.”
In Ward 5, Democratic candidate Ed Ladouceur took home 55.2 percent of the vote to his opponent’s 44.5 percent. He defeated Republican candidate Danny Hall, who made a second attempt for the seat. He lost to current Ward 5 Councilman John DelGiudice two years ago. DelGiudice did not seek re-election.
Ladouceur said he is “absolutely delighted” of his win and also praised and congratulated Hall for running a “really good” campaign.
“He worked hard,” Ladouceur said during a brief phone interview yesterday afternoon.
As for his victory, he said he couldn’t be happier.
“It’s an honor to be able to serve the people of Ward 5 and the entire city of Warwick,” Ladouceur said. “I’m anxious to tackle all the issues that I discussed with everyone while I’ve been walking the ward the last 15 weeks. I’m anxious to get in there. I can’t wait to get going. And my volunteers were amazing. They did a fabulous job.”
In Ward 6, incumbent and Democrat Donna Travis won against Republican candidate Catharine Leach. Travis reeled in 66.6 percent of the vote, with Leach taking 33.2 percent.
During a brief phone interview moments after the votes came in, Travis expressed her pleasure with her win. She celebrated with family and friends at The Islander at 2318 West Shore Road.
But while rumors have been circulating that she’s thinking about running for council president, she wouldn’t get into details.
“I’m not going to say anything just yet, but there’s a possibility,” Travis said. This will be her 10th term on the council.
Ward 7 Councilman and Democrat Charles Donovan won the election with 46.7 percent of the vote over former independent candidates Ward 7 Councilman Al Gemma, who garnished 33.7 percent of the vote, while William Russo earned 19.5 percent. Donovan, who has been on the council since 2000, said he is considering running for council president.
For now, he’s basking in his victory.
“I’m thrilled that the people of Ward 7 saw fit to bring me back to serve them for the next two years and deal with the issues that are surrounding Ward 7,” said Donovan. “It feels great and it was not an easy campaign. It was a hotbed of activity because you had a political veteran, Al Gemma, and someone who had run twice before in Ward 7, Bill Russo. It was a very hard-fought contest.”
Returning to the council after more than 18 years will be Ward 8 winner Joseph Gallucci, who took home 63 percent of the vote to Lyn Jennings, who ran as a Republican and earned 36.7 percent of the vote. He will replace current Ward 8 Councilman Ray Gallucci, who has been on the council for eight years.
“I enjoyed my service to the people of the ward and all the people of the city [and] I look forward to doing the same this time,” Joseph said moments after his win at his campaign headquarters on Jefferson Boulevard. “I thank and respect everyone that voted.”
Joseph served as Ward 8 councilman from 1977 to 1984, and again from 1990 to 1994, and was also council president from 1977 to 1984. He also expressed his gratitude to his campaign volunteers, especially his brother.
“If it wasn’t for my brother, I would not have won,” he said. “It’s the truth.”