After raising expectations for the Democratic Town Committee, Johnston Democrats presented a united front last Thursday when they opened their headquarters at 1500 Atwood Avenue. Party leaders attributed positive progress to the “teamwork” of incumbents and urged voters to reinstate that team in November.
“Johnston is really on the map in terms of its democratic electorate. Johnston is an important political place,” said committee Chairman Richard DelFino. “We have a real grassroots organization in place, which I think excites the base.”
Last week’s opening comes in the wake of structural changes to the committee, which reduced its number of members from 75 to 55 in January – a change that becomes effective in January of 2013.
DelFino said at the time that the motivation was to engage only the most dedicated members, who are now expected to attend meetings regularly. Those members are also limited to make endorsements from their respective districts, meaning each Council and School Committee candidate has 11 members voting on their endorsement.
“I think it’s going very, very well,” DelFino said. “I can’t tell you how pleased I am that the committee appears to be unanimous in its willingness to support the candidates, its willingness to develop strategies to be successful. It’s a very positive environment.”
Party headquarters will be open nightly, and DelFino hopes the high expectations of the Democratic Town Committee will result in members stepping to the plate and volunteering to support campaigns, from walking with candidates and making phone calls to stuffing envelopes.
“We really owe it to them to be there for them in this election,” DelFino said Thursday of the Democrat candidates.
Johnston’s Democratic Town Committee endorsed a full slate of incumbents, as well as Anthony Verardo in District 2, which will be vacated by outgoing Independent Councilman Ernest Pitochelli Sr. Pitochelli is the only elected official in the town who is not a registered Democrat.
Verardo, who has served on the town Planning Board for five years, is confident he can fill that place and work well with the existing officers, should they be re-elected.
“I would have never even given a second thought if I thought I couldn’t work with these elected officials to make this town a better place,” he said.
The endorsed Democrats for the 2012 election are: Joseph Polisena, mayor; Eileen Fuoco, Dist. 1 Council; Anthony Verardo, Dist. 2 Council; David Santilli, Dist. 3 Council; Robert Russo, Dist. 4 Council; Stephanie Manzi, Dist. 5 Council; Robert LaFazia, Dist. 1 School Committee; Joseph Rotella, Dist. 4 School Committee; John Carnevale, Dist. 13 Representative; Stephen Ucci, Dist. 43 Representative; Deborah Fellela, Dist. 43 Representative; Peter Petrarca, Dist. 44 Representative; Frank Lombardo, Dist. 25 Senator; and Stephen Archambault, Dist. 22 Senator, who represents just a small portion of Johnston and is a new addition to the local electorate.
“It’s a small district, but I will represent the whole town of Johnston in the Senate. I am committed to making changes that are beneficial to the people of this state. I’m a fighter,” said Archambault, who is a native of Smithfield and a two-term councilman from his hometown.
Rep. Felella lives in Archambault’s Senate District and was the first person to sign his nomination papers, which must be submitted by tomorrow, July 13, to qualify to run for office. Archambault’s section of Johnston is located east of George Waterman Road and south of Allendale Avenue, with a southern boundary of Newman Avenue.
Santilli, Manzi, LaFazia, Rotella, Carnevale and Ucci are all unopposed victors in their respective districts.
Manzi, the council vice president, offered her support to her colleagues with challengers, saying that she plans to walk alongside them this summer and spend much time in Democratic headquarters.
“It is all about teamwork,” she said.
Also supported by local Dems are incumbent Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman James Langevin, who attended last week’s opening.
“I’m always proud to remind people that I come from good Johnston stock,” he said, recalling his parents’ lineage in the town.
“I’m proud to be a part of a Congressional delegation that fights for the people of Rhode Island,” Langevin continued.
Langevin said this upcoming election will be a challenging one, because so many people are still frustrated, out of work and feeling the effects of a recession he said is a remnant of the failed policies of former President George W. Bush.
“We all know Rhode Island is having a hard time. It is on my mind every day. There are still far too many people who are out of work,” he said. “I’m not satisfied, nor should any of us be satisfied. We have work to do.”
A priority for Langevin, if he were re-elected, would be to improve access to training and education programs that would close the skills gap and ready the workforce for employment.
Mayor Joseph Polisena ticked off a list of what he considers improvements in the town, including no tax increase this year; a new soccer complex, library, municipal courthouse and sewer line down Central Avenue; consolidated services with North Providence and a fuel depot that is saving money on gas for town vehicles.
DelFino called the trends locally, a “great, positive direction this town has gone in.”
He also cited economic development as a strength attributable to Johnston Democrats. Among the businesses that have moved or expanded in Johnston are Sims Metals Recycling, CVS, Planet Fitness, Patriot Disposal, Job Lot, Card$mart and Broadrock Renewables.
“It goes on and on and on and on. We have cranes and construction going on every day,” he said.