Democrats Take Over Town Council, Winning All 5 Seats

by | Nov 7, 2018

Above, from left: Mike Zarrella, Caryn Corenthal, Mark Schwager, Mike Donegan, and Renu Englehart, East Greenwich’s Town Council-elect.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The Democrats pulled off a stunning Town Council win Tuesday, winning all five seats. The sweep follows a pitched battle of a campaign that started in June 2017, when the Republican-majority Town Council appointed Gayle Corrigan as town manager, to the consternation of what developed from a regular vocal presence at council meetings to Tuesday’s strong turnout for the Democratic slate.

There has not been a Democratic majority on the Town Council in more than 25 years.

Incumbent Mark Schwager was the top vote getter with 14.1 percent, followed by newcomers Mike Donegan (13.1 percent), Renu Englehart (12.6 percent), Mike Zarrella (11.2 percent) and Caryn Corenthal (10.6 percent).

Schwager, who had been the lone dissenting voice for 17 months, relished the victory, echoing the slogan adopted a year ago by the Democrats and others who wanted change. The five Democrats have pledged to get rid of Town Manager Corrigan. Two weeks ago, Corrigan told Engaged EG she would resign if she lost support on the council. 

“You know what? We flipped the council,” said Schwager to the jubilant crowd gathered at EG Democratic campaign headquarters at the Varnum Armory. “It’s been a long time coming. I have to say it again: We flipped the council.”

The election was a rebuke to the majority Republican Town Council, including Council President Sue Cienki and Councilman Andy Deutsch, who both had sought reelection. Cienki went from being the top vote getter in 2016 to 9th out of 10 on Tuesday, with 7.5 percent of the vote. Deutsch came in 6th, with 7.9 percent of the vote.

A show of force for the Democratic candidates for Town Council at Hanaford Tuesday.

Sean O’Leary (I) and Chad Callanan (R) both got 7.7 percent of the vote. Bill Higgins (I) got 7.5 percent.

“I think we presented as a team a stark contrast to the current administration,” said second-place finisher Donegan. “We came together with values that our community thinks are important. We want to protect our schools and our children, we want to have a responsible budget, and we want to have an open and transparent government. We offered those and our community rose up and said, ‘That’s what we want.’”

Schwager and the other winners credited the EG Town Democratic Committee, specifically Chairwoman Christa Thompson and Co-Vice Chair Heather Bristol, who coordinated an extensive get-out-the-vote effort Tuesday as well as months of door-to-door canvassing.

The Republicans, who gathered at Mainstreet Coffee at results were announced, were resigned.

“We laid it all out on the field,” said Callanan. “I have no regrets. I met some fantastic people and made a lot of friends.”

“Good luck to them,” said Cienki simply.

Vote totals were high, with more than 54 percent of the East Greenwich electorate casting ballots, a percentage not seen for decades in a mid-term election. Here they are, including the mail ballots (find results of all the races here):

Mark Schwager (D) 4,153 votes (14.1 percent)

Mike Donegan (D) 3,850 votes (13.1 percent)

Renu Englehart (D) 3,716 votes (12.6 percent)

Mike Zarrella (D) 3,302 votes (11.2 percent)

Caryn Corenthal (D) 3,115 votes (10.6 percent)

Andy Deutsch (R) 2,334 votes (7.9 percent)

Sean O’Leary (I) 2,282 votes (7.7 percent)

Chad Callanan R) 2,269 votes (7.7 percent)

Sue Cienki (R)  2,212 votes (7.5 percent)

Bill Higgins (I) 2,206 votes (7.5 percent)


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8 Comments

  1. Kate Williams

    The people have spoken!!

    Reply
  2. Tracie Truesdell

    It is wonderful to see so many residents voting. This turnout shows our community, coming together and voting for change. There is no longer a question as to what the residents want. Tonight, it’s clear. Thank you to the out going town council members for the time you each served our community. Thank you to the incoming town council members for all you have done to get here tonight, and for everything you’re going to do for our community over the next two years.

    Reply
  3. Claudia Smith

    Thank you Bill Higgins for your tireless support for the folks of East Greenwich.

    Reply
    • Marie Hennedy

      Bill Higgins didn’t need to win a seat on the new Town Council: thank God, his honest voice and civil common sense are ever available to our town. Thanks for being you, Bill!

      Reply
    • Alan Clarke

      The fact that Bill Higgins didn’t get on the council is perhaps the most puzzling thing to come down the election pipe. If I were an EG voter, he’d have been on my list, fer sher. Sorry, Bill. Be ready next time.

      Reply
  4. Camille Speca

    Do these figures include the absentee ballots?

    Reply
    • Elizabeth McNamara

      Yes. I used “mail ballot” for absentee …

      Reply
  5. Andrey Goretoy

    Change is good, that is when change is in the right direction.. It will take sometimes to see what this new direction will bring to our residents. Mark Schwager was bringing sense of balance to the former council. Council is now reversed its political ties, that is not necessarily a bad thing, but the sense of balance is not present in the new council, and that is not a good thing. In the mean time i just wanted to bring words of a great man for consideration.
    “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”
    I wish to a new council wisdom to make right choices for our town so we can live and prosper together.

    Reply

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