2012-09-13 / Front Page

Challengers sweep the Democratic primary

Four incumbents lose bids for re-election to council
BY TIM RIEL

With nine Democrats running for only five Town Council seats, the challengers decided to join forces against the four incumbents leading up to the party’s Sept. 11 primary. The five contenders released ads with a clear message to Jamestown voters: Let’s wipe the slate clean and start over fresh.

On Tuesday, voters agreed with their message. From the bottom up – which was their slogan, since the last five names on the ballot were the challengers – George Levesque, Gene Mihaly, Mary Meagher, Kristine Trocki and Tom Tighe won the primary handily, securing their spots as the Democratic nominees on November’s ballot.

The four Democrats on the losing end were Bob Bowen, Bill Murphy, Michael Schnack and Mike White. The results of Tuesday’s primary were Trocki, 824; Meagher, 790; Mihaly, 654; Levesque, 596; Tighe, 590; White, 396; Murphy, 370; Schnack, 308; and Bowen, 266. There are 62 absentee votes yet to be tallied, which is not enough to affect the outcome.

Less than 30 percent of voters went to the polls Tuesday. Only 1,078 of the 4,065 registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters that were eligible to vote visited either the Town Hall or Lawn Avenue School polling locations to cast their ballots. The current council will preside over its last meeting on Nov. 5. The new councilors – which will have at least four new members – will take their seats on Nov. 19.

“It appears that our electorate has not been happy with our service,” said White. “I hope that the newly elected Democratic candidates will continue our desire to represent the people of Jamestown in the general election.”

“We accomplished a lot under difficult circumstances and held taxes low,” said Schnack, the lame duck Town Council president. “We’ve left the town in very good financial condition even after a loss of state aid and bad economic conditions. I wish all of the candidates luck in November.”

Mihaly, who joked that he spent more time campaigning outside of Town Hall Tuesday than he wanted to, said that he believed the town was looking for a change.

“It looks like we managed to present a clear, well-defined slate with well-defined opinions,” he said. “We presented a plausible alternative to the present council. Of course, we differ in temperate and have different ideas, but we also know how to work together.”

“The victory is attributable to the power of teamwork and the power of hard work,” said Meagher, who previously sat on the council in the early 1990s. “Many people, besides the candidates, gave hours of their time and incredible amounts of energy and effort on our behalf, and I am forever grateful and humbled by their generosity.”

The challengers were gracious in victory. “I think the other guys are good guys,” said Mihaly. “It was a hard fought campaign.”

Added Meagher, “I know it is disappointing to lose and I thank the incumbents for their civility in the campaign and their service as town councilors.”

Bowen, who received the least votes of the nine candidates, attributed the sweep by the challengers to a better-run campaign. “I think they had a well-run campaign and it was well funded. They got their message out. They were recruited and became a strongly organized group. They hammered the place with ads, flyers, emails and phone calls. More power to them. They did it and they won.”

Murphy was also disheartened with the outcome. “I have been honored to serve the good people of Jamestown for the past three years and am naturally disappointed in the results [Tuesday]. I can say with pride that I have always done what was best for Jamestown as a whole.”

Levesque, Meagher, Mihaly, Tighe and Trocki will be joined by two Republicans and four Independents on November’s ballot. The two GOP candidates are Blake Dickinson and Paul Sprague. Dickinson has been vice president of the Republican Town Committee since 2010, and was also the president of the Taxpayers Association of Jamestown before resigning his post to focus on the election. Sprague owns two businesses in Jamestown: Island Energy and the Island Scoop. He is a Jamestown Chamber of Commerce board member.

The four Independents include Ellen Winsor, the only incumbent who has a chance to be re-elected. Winsor has spent three years on the Town Council and was also instrumental in the fight against Hess Oil from building an LNG terminal in Narragansett Bay.

The other three Independents are Dan Capuano, a business owner who previously served on the Buildings and Facilities Committee, and who also ran against Rep. Deb Ruggiero in the 2010 election; William Harsch, an attorney who previously chaired the state’s Public Utilities Commission and was a member of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission; an Evan Katz, a 23-year-old recent graduate from the University of Rhode Island who serves as a lieutenant on the Jamestown Fire Department.

So what’s next for the Democratic nominees? “I’m going to Italy in a few hours,” said Mihaly. “The next step for me is to finish packing.”

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