SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — As Cadence Hansen waited for the results of Tuesday night’s democratic primary for the South Kingstown School Committee, all she wanted was to have dinner and relax after a long day in the sun hoping to reach voters.
She may have eaten but relaxing? That remains to be seen.
With just under 3,000 residents in South Kingstown requesting mail-in ballot applications and another 300 asking for last-minute emergency ballots, the final results of Tuesday’s election will not be known until later this week. As of right now, however, Hansen is just 46 votes behind endorsed candidate Christie Fish for the fourth and final qualifying spot for November’s general election.
“I’m feeling fairly confident,” Hansen said Tuesday night. “I realize that I’m fifth and that’s OK. I think that I did a good job and I think that a lot of our candidates have really shown up. I think that the real takeaway of the primary vote is that people want to see change.”
Hansen and Fish were narrowly trailing lead voter-getters Melissa Boyd, Paula Whitford and Michelle Brousseau Tuesday night in a field of six candidates separated, top to bottom, by less than 330 votes.
“I’m optimistic,” Boyd said. “As a challenger and first-time non-endorsed candidate, I certainly faced a number of challenges. I’m grateful for the early reported success and for the support from so many community members.”
Tuesday’s Democratic primary featured two incumbents from the current school committee and four newcomers. The two incumbents found mixed levels of success as Brousseau appears poised to move on with a third-place finish and a total of 1,081 votes but Stephanie Canter trails with just 810 votes.
Boyd and Whitford, meanwhile, led all comers with 1,139 and 1,108 votes, respectively.
“I am a first time candidate and I have a renewed respect for any person that chooses to run for public office,” Boyd said. “It is an incredible amount of work and I was very fortunate to have many folks offer helpful advice and volunteer their time and expertise. I know I would not have been as successful without their input.”
“I’m humbled and very grateful,” Whitford said. “Having the support of my community is very humbling and this being a first for me, it couldn’t have gone any better. It was very challenging and I learned very quickly this is not the traditional way of campaigning. With the pandemic, you can’t go knocking on doors and stuff like that. It’s very overwhelming, it’s a lot of work and it’s more than what I anticipated but I’m a challenger. I like challenges and so far, even though all of the numbers are not in, I’m feeling good about it and looking forward to jumping over the next hurdle.”
The South Kingstown School Committee race was one of two on the ballot for Democratic party voters Tuesday. Also up for election were a slate of candidates for Town Council as a mix of three incumbents and three newcomers vied for a total of five spots on the November ballot.
Current Council President Abel Collins leads all candidates with 1,139 votes but it was the strong showing of the race’s only unendorsed candidate, Deborah Bergner, that surprised most as Bergner finished just 10 votes shy of Collins for second place overall.
“I’m very, very thankful for the residents who came out in the middle of a pandemic to vote in person and I’m also thankful to the residents who voted safely by mail,” Bergner said. “I am also grateful for a very engaged community. We have always been a community who is involved in civic matters. I’ve lived here for 20 years and seen that happen first hand so I’ve always known that the community cares about the issues and that we’re paying attention to what’s happening in our town is really amazing.”
Pending mail-in ballots, Bergner leads two current members of the council in Rory H. McEntee and Deborah J. Kelso, who are in third and fourth, respectively, with 1,113 and 1,077 votes.
Jessica L. Rose, meanwhile, is currently fifth in the race with a 1,004-852 lead over Edward Myszak for the final spot on November’s ballot.
Messages left for other candidates in Tuesday’s council and School Committee races were not returned by press time. A full report on both races, including final mail-in and absentee ballot totals, will run in next week’s Independent.