Political landscape in Johnston beginning to take shape

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The field of candidates for local offices has come into focus after a slew of hopefuls filed for General Assembly, Town Council and School Committee seats this week.

It’s a tale of two campaigns for the town’s state Senate seats. Dist. 25 Sen. Frank Lombardo III will run unopposed this year, while Dist. 22 Sen. Stephen Archambault will face opponents in both the primary and general election. Democrat Melanie DuPont, cofounder of the newly formed Rhode Island Political Cooperative, will seek to oust the four-term senator. The two have faced off before, in the 2018 primary, with Archambault winning by 750 votes. Republican Paul Santucci will challenge Archambault in the general election as well.

Dist. 43 Rep. Deborah Fellela is the only Johnston House member who will face a primary and general election opponent. Melinda Lopez will seek the Democratic nomination, but Republican Nicola Antonio Grosso has joined the fray as well.

Dist. 13 Rep. Mario Mendez will face off with Ramon Perez – the incumbent he defeated by just more than 70 votes in 2018 – and Janice Falconer in a Democratic primary as he seeks to retain his seat. WPRI’s Ted Nesi broke news Thursday afternoon that longtime Dist. 42 Rep. Stephen Ucci will not run for reelection. The report noted that Ucci will endorse Democrat Edward Cardillo Jr.. Republican Frank Ricci, who initially was running for Town Council, switched to run for the seat as well.

Dist. 44 Rep. Gregory Constantino, also a Democrat, is the only Johnston House member running unopposed this year.
At the local level, Town Council Vice President Joseph Polisena Jr. of District 3 is running unopposed.  

In District 1, Democratic incumbent Linda Folcarelli will face a primary from Deborah Spaur. Districts 2 and 4, though, look to be the most contentious fights. Current District 2 representative David Santilli Jr. has not filed for re-election and a call seeking comment was not returned. Democrats Karol Harrison Archila and Lauren Garzone, though only Garzone has received an endorsement.

Democratic Council President Robert Russo will have to fend off several challengers for his District 4 seat. Independent Raymond Cianci and former Director of Public Works Arnie Vecchione and Kevin Millonzi will oppose Russo in the primary. District 5 Councilman Robert Civetti will face Independent Jim Florio Jr. at the ballot box this fall as well.

Three incumbents have filed for reelection to the School Committee, including District 1 Chairman Bob LaFazia and District 4 Vice Chair Joseph Rotella, both of whom are running unopposed. The only primary thus far on the committee is between current District 3 representative David Santilli Sr. – who was appointed after the passing of Janice Mele – and Kristen Spagnole. District 2’s Dawn Aloisio and District 5’s Susan Mansolillo are not up for reelection until 2022.

More comprehensive candidate profiles will be appearing in subsequent issues of the Sun Rise.

Editor's note: This story was updated with new information on Saturday, June 27, at 12:02 p.m. to reflect Councilman Robert Civetti's and Council President Robert Russo's Independent opponents.

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