Early voting at most Johnston polling locations was light this morning, with a quicker pace at the voting booths in Ward 1, where three Democratic candidates are vying for the seat currently held by Eileen Fuoco.
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After about three hours of voting, 67 ballots had been cast at Pell Manor, with about 80 votes counted at by around 10 am.
The three candidates in the Ward 1 race — Fuoco, Edward Cardillo, and Paul Crowell — were splitting time between the two locations.
During an interview at Pell this morning, Fuoco said she was confident of a victory.
"I've got a strong turnout — I think the majority of the people will support me," Fuoco explained. "People recognize me, they know who I am, and they know I've been doing a good job for the last 19 months being their councilwoman."
The first-term councilor also noted the support from other Democratic office-holders, including Mayor Joseph Polisena, Council Vice President Stephanie Manzi, and School Committee member Robert LaFazia, who were all at Pell promoting Fuoco's candidacy.
"I've got 100 percent support behind me from these elected officials," fuoco said.
Over at Simmons Village, Cardillo said he felt he was "doing fine," and explained his reasons for running this year.
"District 1 has been a district that, I feel, has been neglected, and it's time that we had someone who's going to make things happen here," Cardillo said. "There are many things that need to be done, from the roads to the infrastructure — I mean, nothing's been done in District 1 for the last four years. All we hear is rhetoric and promises."
Fellow first-time candidate Paul Crowell also observed the slow turnout, and explained his hopes for today's vote, which will decide the race.
"It's a little less than we'd like to see, numbers-wise, but a lot of people are motivated because it's a very contentious race for the seat," Crowell said. "This year, we have an incumbent who, like a lot of politicians, is complacent — we need someone with new enthusiasm and motivation, who wants to not only hold a seat but represent the district."
Senate incumbent hopes for big numbers:
The issue of turnout will likely be a major factor in the Rhode Island Senate Dist. 22 Democratic primary, with incumbent Sen. Frank Lombardo III saying he thinks higher ballot numbers will help him.
"We expected a low turnout, and we're hoping that more come out after 5 pm when they get out of work," Lombardo explained. "We'd like to see about 2,000 people come out to vote — it's been very positive [so far], but we need the numbers to come out."
By comparison, Lombardo won an eight-way primary in 2010 by just nine votes out of about 5,800 cast.
Lombardo only faces one challenger this year — Nicole Acciardo, 19 — who said she hopes to bring a new perspective to the state Senate if she wins.
"I think it's important to fill the gap between the old and the new generation, and I think I can do that. I'm a very positive person, and I think I can make a difference," Acciardo explained.
Acciardo, who turns 20 in October, would be among the youngest-ever state Senators in Rhode Island history, if elected.
"I'd be the youngest for Johnston, so I'm excited — I'd like to make history," Acciardo explained.
One key issue that may impact the Senate race is the state's recent efforts at pension reform — which Lombardo supported when it passed the General Assembly last December — and the general topic of union support.
Union mobilzation against the pension reform law — and the General Assembly members who voted for it — could be a deciding factor in today's vote, Lombardo explained.
"It's hurting the people who supported reform — we didn't get the endorsements; I'm not sure of anybody [running for Senate] who supported pension reform — and there were 36 out of 38 Senators who did — who got the labor endorsement this year," Lombardo said. "Unfortunately, the 70 percent of the people wo were in favor of pension reform are not coming out to the polls; that's what's got me a little bit on edge today."
Last week, the Johnston Sun Rise reported that Acciardo's stepfather issued a statement about a 2010 penalty assessed by the state Department of Labor and Training on Lombardo's company, saying that it showed Lombardo's lack of support for unions.
Lombardo said the situation showed the problem with state agencies and regulations, and noted that he had paid the fines and penalties, the newspaper reported.
More voting expected later:
At , poll workers reported 72 ballots cast by 11:15 am, and 's vote tally reached 101 by noontime.
Election Moderator Robert Saran said the turnout was typical for a September primary, though he added that he expects more traffic this afternoon.
"We expect that the dinner rush will be pretty good in here," Saran explained. "We're going to get a lot of people coming in after dinner — a lot of people are working now."
Saran also said that the new requirement for voters to show photo identification under the state's Voter ID law has not caused any issues.
"We have not had one complaint from voters about having to show their IDs to vote," Saran noted. "We've had a lot of driver's licenses, and I think we had one passport — everything's going great."
Polls close tonight at 8 pm — watch JohnstonPatch tonight for results from today's vote.