Florio looks back on campaign, weighs mayoral run in 2022

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Independent candidate for Town Council James Florio Jr. said he isn’t ruling out a run for mayor or another shot at District 5 in two years, the Sun Rise learned in a recent interview.

Florio reflected on his candidacy, saying that he felt “really good” about how the race played out but wished he had devoted more time and resources to early and mail-in voters. The numbers bear out Florio’s what-if scenario: He was within 150 votes of two-term incumbent Robert Civetti once the in-person votes had been counted, but Civetti widened the gulf between them with an 1,117-591 advantage in those who cast their ballots before Election Day.

“I didn’t plan well for the early and mail-in ballots,” Florio said. “I did a poor job with my efforts to get my name out there prior to those deadlines and so depending on what happens next time around, we’re not sure where mail-in ballots are going to be in two years or early voting, it really depends on the pandemic and other factors. It’s tough to plan for something that’s never happened before. I didn’t know what to expect.”

Florio said his goal was earning 30 percent of the vote, a mark he was able to exceed easily. He received 1,349 votes, which put him just a shade under 40 percent of the total turnout.

“The in-person voting, which in my mind captures the people that I was able to at least try to let them know who I was, came in pretty close,” Florio said. “Prior to the emergency ballots and the mail ballots, that night I felt like I had a really good chance. The ultimate summary is, I feel really good. It’s a stepping stone for two years to come, whether I decide to run for council or mayor, that’s something I’m certainly considering.”

Florio said he is “leaving all options open right now at this point,” including a potential run at the mayor’s office once Joseph Polisena is termed out in 2022.

He said that several years ago he was a registered Democrat, the party under which he ran for a District 2 council seat in 2002. Then he dropped his affiliation because “you have to pick the right person for the job” no matter their party.

“Who’s going to be out there for the people?” Florio said. “Who’s going to have the best interest for the people? That means staying away from politics, doing what’s in the best interest of the people, the community, the neighborhoods, and staying away from the politics, where it’s who you know and all those things. My opinion is that’s where the town is heading, it’s really identifying the right person for the job.”

When asked if those same traits have allowed Polisena to grow so popular in Johnston, Florio declined to comment much. He did say, though, that the long-time leader of the town “can fit in and makes people feel comfortable,” as he isn’t a standard suit-and-tie politician.

“I think he certainly has a way about him, a style, that allows him to connect to many people, I think that is an important style and skill to have,” Florio said. “Not everyone possesses that. When you can roll up your sleeves and dress just like everybody else to fit in, that goes a long way … I do that at work. When it’s time to help and do certain things and get dirty, I roll my sleeves up, take the tie off and I’m part of the team. I certainly think that’s important.”

If he does launch a mayoral campaign, he said he’s learned from this year’s race. He noted that with the mid-October deadlines for mail-in voting, he should have hit the trail sooner. It’s a mistake he’s steadfast against repeating if he joins the fray again in 2022.

“You could argue I probably should’ve been out there sooner, even though I wasn’t ringing doorbells, I should’ve made more efforts to be visible somehow,” Florio said. “It’s a lesson learned. That’s why I feel really happy about the results, with the in-person I did really well.”

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