On to November

Perez reclaims seat, other local incumbents cruise to general election

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Several endorsed Johnston candidates were victorious after the results of Tuesday’s primary, most notably House District 43 Rep. Deborah Fellela and Town Council District 4 representative and President Robert Russo.

The Johnston Democratic Town Committee had been pushing Fellela and Russo’s reelection bids, and those efforts were successful in the first leg of the race.

Fellela held a 531-327 lead over challenger Melinda Lopez in day-of voting, and she extended her lead with an 88-27 advantage in emergency ballots on Wednesday. Fellela’s lead only continued to grow when mail ballots were posted Thursday evening – she claimed 392 to Lopez’s 236. Fellela said Wednesday via Twitter that she was “hopeful” that mail ballots would be in her favor.

One local politician had seen enough on Tuesday night, let alone waiting for any emergency or mail ballot results to pour in. Council Vice President Joseph Polisena Jr. tweeted his congratulations to Fellela on a “strong win tonight.”

“Can’t wait to help her continue campaigning into November,” he wrote.

Seeking her fifth term, Fellela moves on to face Nick Grasso and independent Crystal Lozada in the general election. Grasso ran unopposed to set up the November showdown. A call to Fellela was not returned before the Sun Rise’s Thursday press time.

Russo, who has served on the council for 25 years, finished with a 502-337 lead over challenger Kevin Millonzi. Russo held a 269-176 advantage at the polling stations. However, he quadrupled Millonzi’s total in emergency ballots, 44-11, to increase his margin and further upped that with a 189-150 triumph in mail ballots.

Only one other Council member – District 5’s Bob Civetti – will face a threat this fall, as independent James Florio Jr. is making a bid for his seat.

“You always want to be cautious, you don’t want to take anything for granted,” Russo told the Sun Rise on Thursday morning. “It was a very unorthodox year. People nervous about going out to the polls. I want to thank everyone who came out to the polls.”

Russo said that he saw several elderly voters, including one 89-year-old man who fell and needed assistance.

“I commend them for being brave to come out to vote,” Russo said, wary of “jumping the gun” on final results. “I think people see what’s happening in Johnston. We had a message and we delivered it. Not only do we have a message but we have the results to back it up.”

Ramon Perez lost a close primary to House District 13 Rep. Mario Mendez in 2018, but he flipped the script this time around. Perez held a slim margin going into mail ballots, where he claimed 575 more votes to Mendez’s 83 and Janice Falconer’s 26. He finished with 751 votes, while Mendez and Falconer posted 238 and 129, respectively. In Johnston, Perez secured 136 votes to Mendez’s 89 and Falconer’s 24.

“It was a well fought campaign and the people spoke,” Perez said when reached by phone Thursday evening. “They want somebody to represent them better.”

Democratic District 22 Sen. Stephen Archambault led progressive challenger Melanie DuPont by more than 400 votes as of Thursday evening. Archambault had a 692-452 lead after in-person voting, an advantage to which he only added as emergency and mail ballots flowed in.

Just a few of those votes came from Johnston, where Archambault edged out DuPont, 29-27. A call to Archambault was not returned before press time.

He moves on to a November race against Republican Paul Santucci, who ran unopposed, and independent Stephen Tocco.

Four other Johnston races had no primary stakes, but voters still turned out for a few of them. Coincidentally, the top vote-getter for any local position in town was District 25 Sen. Frank Lombardo III. Despite running unopposed, Lombardo received 2,015 total votes. He is running unopposed in November, as is District 44 Rep. Gregory Constantino.

Democrat Edward Cardillo Jr. and Republican Frank Ricci, each vying to replace longtime incumbent Stephen Ucci in House District 42, collected 475 and 127 votes, respectively.

At the congressional level, U.S. Rep. James Langevin cruised past his opponent, Dylan Conley, by a 1,687-826 margin. Langevin had a significant edge in mail ballots, 836-211. Former Republican state representative Robert Lancia will oppose Langevin in November, and he more than doubled up primary opponent, Donald Frederick Robbio, in Johnston votes, 255-122.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed ran unopposed, but managed a town-high 2,120 votes. His November opponent Republican Allen Waters received 336 votes.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story noted that Russo would face Independent Raymond J. Cianci in November, but Cianci did not turn in his signatures so he will not appear on the ballot

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