The third time was the charm for Bryant Da Cruz.
After a pair of unsuccessful campaigns for the South Kingstown Town Council, first in 2014’s general election and last year in a special election for the seat vacated by the departure of Carol Hagan McEntee, Da Cruz finally got over the hump Tuesday night and was the lone newcomer elected to a council that will see four incumbents return to office.
Da Cruz finished third overall in the race with 6,503 votes and will join Democrat incumbent Meg Healy (6,871), Independent Joe Viele (6,817), Independent Liz Gledhill (6,153) and Democrat Abel Collins (6,006) on the council.
Independent Murray Gates (4,661) finished sixth overall and thanks to a voter-approved change to the town charter (See story, A-5) would become the next member of the council should there be a vacancy in the next year. Independent Andrew Shea (3,727), Democrat Karina Burston (3,721), Democrat Robin Downes (3,013) finished seventh-ninth and independent Sean Ford (2,621) finished in last place.
Independent candidate James S. Hill finished ahead of Ford with 2,672 votes despite dropping out of the race weeks ago.
The departure of Rachel Clough, who ran for a seat in House District 34 against Teresa Tanzi and Ewa Dzwierzynski during the September primaries, left at least one council spot up for grabs, making way for Da Cruz, who credited perseverance for the win.
The four democratic candidates, Healy, Da Cruz, Collins and Downes waited for results at Dragon Palace Tuesday night. The wait was a long one as the crowded restaurant watched the drama of the presidential contest play out on national TV. Some candidates who were at polling stations until they closed said there were delays in getting final numbers from polling machines.
“I am extremely humbled,” Healy told a crowded room at the Chinese restaurant. Healy became the top vote getter with 13 percent of the vote after absentee and emergency ballots were finalized Thursday. “I have to thank all of you for trusting me. It means the world to me.”
Viele received 12.9 percent of the vote. He spent the night at his shop, Liberty Rentals, awaiting results with friends and family.
“I’m very happy,” Viele said calmly but with a smile as he stood behind the counter at his store. “I knew voter turnout was going to be high because of the presidential race so I knew it was going to be a challenge to win.”
As he looks toward the next two years, Viele said he will focus on his campaign’s platform to make South Kingstown affordable.
“We need to provide services that are necessary and make it affordable for our citizens,” he said.
Daniel Pucella, a 93-year-old World War II veteran, was one of Viele’s supporters and while he was uncertain how the p residential race would shape up (“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said), he was certain about casting his vote for the Independent council candidate.
"I’m so excited that I made it this time,” Da Cruz said. “People that normally wouldn’t vote Democratic voted for me so I really appreciate everyone’s faith in me. I can’t wait to do good work on the council.”
At West Kingston Elementary School two supporters of Da Cruz said they were voting for him because they felt he was the only one who would represent them on the council.
Both Brenda Osibin and Gale Prout, Democrats, said they live in affordable housing in town and felt their community there had very little exposure to the candidates that were running.
“We don’t know what [candidates] are going to do for us,” Osibin said.
“Low-income housing communities don’t seem to be represented well,” Prout said, echoing her friend’s concerns about her community. “We feel shunned from the town by living in affordable housing.”
It was a topic brought up by at least two candidates after polls closed.
Gledhill, who spent the night surrounded by friends and family at the Chophouse Grill in Wakefield, said she was elated to have a second chance to represent her constituents and hoped to tackle the issue head on.
“I was thrilled with the turnout tonight,” she said Tuesday after polls were closed. “I want to continue working to focus on affordable housing, reduce impact fees and work with the school department to try and keep a tight budget while still providing the best education for students.”
Linda Willis was one of 162 voters at South Kingstown High School Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. She was confident in her vote for Liz Gledhill who she said is passionate about the town.
Although losing his seat as Council president, Collins said he was also happy to continue to serve alongside experienced and thoughtful candidates.
“I look forward to working on affordable housing, sustainably and all other things we’ve been doing for the town for a couple years now,” he said. “We got the votes we needed and we’re going to make the town better.”
The Town Council will vote to appoint two of the five council members to be president and vice president on Nov. 21 when they are sworn in.
Candidates spent Election Day reaching out to voters at the various polling locations in town.
Poll moderators in most locations said traffic was steady throughout the day. Many reported that the longest lines they saw were at 7 a.m., before polls opened. In West Kingston, there were nearly 100 people waiting to cast their vote at the start of the day. New Life Assembly Church reported 25 percent of its precinct had voted by 10:30 a.m. and by 6:30 p.m., more than 1,500 total votes were cast at the location.