SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Independent candidate Liz Gledhill has won the special election for the South Kingstown Town Council seat that opened when Carol Hagan McEntee won the House District 33 race.
She will be sworn in Oct. 13.
After mail and provisional ballots were counted, Gledhill finished 10 votes ahead of independent candidate Jim O’Neill. Both are registered Democrats who chose to run as independent candidates. Gledhill was the sixth highest vote getter in November’s election, narrowly defeated by Hagan McEntee. After former Rep. Donald Lally Jr. resigned in March, Hagan McEntee won a primary and special election for the seat representing Narragansett and South Kingstown.
After all of the precincts reported unofficial totals Tuesday night, Gledhill had 739 votes; O’Neill, a 14-year Town Councilman ousted in November, had 729 votes; endorsed Democrat Bryant Da Cruz had 706 votes; and Joël Dargan, a political newcomer and independent endorsed by the South Kingstown Republican Town Committee, had 210 votes. The numbers include 118 mail and provisional ballots.
At Phil’s Main Street Grille in Wakefield, Gledhill and her supporters cheered as vote totals pointed toward her win. She thanked voters and her volunteers, including former Council President Ella Whaley and state Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34) of Narragansett, Peace Dale and Wakefield.
Initial results did not include mail and provisional ballots, and at that time Gledhill led O’Neill by 36 votes. Gledhill returned to Town Hall Tuesday night for the final count, where she said the mood was tense.
“I think this is a perfect example of where [one person’s] vote can really, really count. In these little elections, coming out to vote really makes a big difference,” she said. “I certainly don’t think I would have won without all the people who supported me; whether they watched my kids, shared my posts on Facebook or knocked on doors.”
About 10 percent of eligible voters – 2,385 of 21,249 registered voters – went to the polls Tuesday, according to Town Canvassing Clerk Dale Holberton. Throughout the day, pollworkers commented turnout was low, but not surprising, because it was a special election.
O’Neill remained at home as results were counted that evening, and later joined Da Cruz and his supporters at TwoTen Oyster Bar & Grill. In a phone interview shortly after the polls closed, he said he would not concede the election until all of the mail ballots were counted. On Wednesday, he said he was studying the rules regarding a recount.
Holberton said there has not been a request for a recount, but added a 10-vote margin would be difficult to overturn that way.
Da Cruz gathered with Hagan McEntee, her husband, Mike (who leads the South Kingstown Democratic Town Committee), Town Council Vice President Meg Healy, former state Rep. Spencer Dickinson and other supporters to follow the results as they came in.
With the experience of running for a council seat in the 2014 general election, Da Cruz said he intensified his efforts this time around.
“I got more people involved [in my campaign], and did a lot more door knocking,” he said.
Da Cruz said he will remain in local politics, and may consider a run in the future. “I’m not closing the door on that, and I’m definitely staying active,” Da Cruz said.
Gledhill will join President Abel Collins and members Healy, Rachel Clough and Joe Viele on the Council. She campaigned with Collins and Clough in November, when she ran as a Democrat. Collins and Viele are independents, Healy and Clough are Democrats.