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.
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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