Gemski, Kinch and Bradley all take council seats

Gemski, Kinch and Bradley all take council seats

Voters cast their ballots at Cumberland High School on Tuesday afternoon. (Breeze photo by Robert Emerson)
Voters OK school upgrades, four-year terms

CUMBERLAND – Democrat Stephanie Gemski, a 30-year-old first-time candidate for Town Council in District 1, said she had no idea what to expect going into Tuesday’s election against independent incumbent Jim Metivier.

Gemski didn’t have to wait long to learn that she’d ousted Metivier by just 66 or so votes, putting her in a position to advocate for some of the district improvements she campaigned on.

“I’m so excited to actually see results happen in District 1,” she said, pledging to work hard on such initiatives as developing green spaces and beautifying Broad Street.

Metivier is a good guy, said Gemski, but just hasn’t done enough to advocate on behalf of his district.

Gemski finished with 962 votes, or 48.6 percent, to Metivier’s 896 votes, or 45.3 percent. Adam Khoury, a second independent both candidates said they knew nothing about and ran little or no campaign, finished with 115 votes. Khoury was long seen as a potential spoiler in this race.

Metivier congratulated Gemski on her win and thanked his supporters and everyone who came to the polls in the rain to vote.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as your town councilor, and I look forward to continuing to work to help address the needs of the people of Cumberland,” he said. “Thank you.”

In the at-large council election, Michael Kinch and Peter Bradley staged a repeat of the September primary on Tuesday, coming in first and second in the race to win the two at-large seats on the Council.

Independent challenger Jim Scullin attempted to unseat Council President Bradley and primary top vote-getter Kinch, but his narrow focus on merging the local fire department with the town apparently wasn’t enough to get the job done with voters.

Kinch had 7,415 votes, or 37.2 percent of the vote, Bradley had 7,303 votes, or 36.6 percent, and Scullin secured 5,040 votes, or 25.3 percent.

The vote among councilors to decide whether Bradley remains council president will be next Monday, Nov. 12, after certification of the election.

Cumberland saw long lines at polling locations early, which dissipated somewhat as rain picked up in the afternoon. A total of about 14,000 of the town’s 26,661 eligible voters (state database) voted in Tuesday’s election, or about 52 percent overall.

Voters gave resounding approval to borrowing up to $83 million for upgrades to local schools, all at a 61 percent reimbursement from the state, for a total cost to town taxpayers of about $29 million. That vote would have been meaningless if voters statewide hadn’t also approved a $250 million bond for school renovations.

In a vote few elected leaders predicted, residents on Tuesday approved going to four-year terms instead of the two-year terms currently in place for mayor, council and school board, as well as limiting terms to eight years total. The vote was 6,656 in favor, or 51.8 percent, to 6,196 opposed, or 48.2 percent. Another election will take place in two years – 2020 – at which time those elected will begin serving four-year terms.

Officials had said that while combining the three offices in a four-year question on the November ballot might lessen its chances of passing, they felt it was the fairest route forward instead of separating them out for votes.

Kinch, who had vehemently opposed going to four-year terms, said he was “overwhelmed, honored, and humbled” to win a seat. Celebrating at J Gray’s Family Restaurant, he said he rode a “relentless door-to door campaign” to victory.

Standing with his wife, Karen, and their two sons, Tyler and Michael, Kinch thanked his volunteers for their tireless effort, and thanked the voters for their warmth and friendliness during his door-to-door campaign.

“We touched thousands of Cumberland voters personally. There is no substitute for hard work. That was the difference,” Kinch said. “There are some who believe that voters are distracted or even disinterested in the important issues of the day. We proved them wrong.”

The former Cumberland deputy police chief said he would follow through on his pledges to focus on accountability and expand citizen access to Cumberland’s government.

“I look forward now to working with our new mayor, my new colleagues on the Town Council, and the School Committee to make sure our government ‘s priorities and spending practices reflect the values of our town’s hardworking taxpayers,” he said.

In the lone School Committee race, Heidi Waters, who has children in the district, convincingly defeated David Francazio, who has no children in the district, earning 78 percent to Francazio’s 21.3 percent. Other school board members, including newcomer Jennifer Bernardo running in District 3, had no opposition and won with ease.

Waters had run on a promise of doing more for the local public school system her family is a party of. She replaced outgoing member Amy Goggin, who was supporting her candidacy.

No other nonpartisan school board seats had challengers this year. District 3 committee member Paul DiModica ran unopposed in seeking William Dennen’s at-large seat, and Bernardo won DiModica’s old seat.

For Cumberland Fire Committee, former Chairman Bruce Lemois was left on the outside looking in after coming in third in his re-election bid. Incumbent Dana Jones secured the most votes, at 5,230, or 27.8 percent, while fellow incumbent Paul Santoro came in second and also earned a seat, with 4,726 votes, or 25.1 percent. Lemois followed, with 4,651 votes, or 24.7 percent, and Charles Wilk came in last, with 4,091 votes, or 21.7 percent.

“Life is good,” Lemois told The Breeze. “I’m always going to be involved.”

Cumberland voters on Tuesday gave incumbent Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo 50.3 percent of the local vote, slightly less than the 52 percent she received statewide in her win over Republican Allan Fung.

In addition to the four-year terms, Cumberland voters also approved all other charter change questions Tuesday, as well as more money for street repaving.