PORTSMOUTH — Democrats gathered at the Portuguese American Club are celebrating tonight after voters put them back in control of Portsmouth.
Although there are still many absentee ballots to tally, Democrats lead the way in five of seven Town Council seats — in order, John Blaess, Keith Hamilton, Michael Buddemeyer, James Seveney, Independent David Gleason, Molly McGee and Len Katzman. Fred Faerber, also a Democrat, holds the eighth spot.
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“We still have to wait on the absentees,” said Mr. Seveney, “but I am very grateful to the voters for their confidence in us. We will work hard to live up to the faith they have shown in us.”
“Jovial” is how Mr. Katzman described the mood at the Portuguese Club. The celebration is tempered, he said, by the realization that there are still 1,000 or so absentee ballots out there.
“I believe the people of Portsmouth have been paying attention to the manner in which their government has been run and they are not pleased.”
At Republican headquarters, Keith Hamilton said, “Not a great night for the Republicans but I’m happy that I won and excited to serve the people of Portsmouth again for another two years.”
Republican Joseph Robicheau said he was surprised by the results, “but that’s what they are.”
He won’t run again, he said, adding that he wasn’t keen on serving in the first place. “I did the best I could and I’m all done.”
For the past two years, Republicans have enjoyed a 5-2 Town Council majority. Through this eventful period, the council brought in a new town administrator, grappled with the state over septic/sewer mandates, dealt with a balky wind turbine, considered the fate of the Elmhurst School property and, like their school counterparts, faced employee retirement cost worries. Those five issues, and others, remain unresolved.
About the only topic on which the two parties seem to agree without reservation is their opposition to Sakonnet River Bridge tolls.
Heavy voting and some moderate to long lines in the four biggest polling places were the norm in Portsmouth this election day.
Registrar of Voters Madeleine Pencak said waits of from 20 to as much as 45 minutes have been reported at the larger voting locations such as Common Fence Point, the high school, middle school and St. Barnabas Church.
There have also been a few machine break downs and ballot jams — “It’s a good thing we have spare machines,” she said.
Portsmouth has 13,369 eligible voters
Setting the stage for the Democrats’ School Committee revival was the September primary. Then, Democratic voters ousted committee veterans Marilyn King and Angela Volpicelli who, while Democrats in name, tended to side often with School Committee Republicans.
Republicans were also hurt when one of their school candidates, Aurelio Lucci, withdrew from the race, leaving only Norbert Rattay to compete against the three Democrats for the three 4-year seats.
The other School Committee race, to fill the seat vacated by former committee chairwoman Cynthia Perrotti, was a competition between Republican incumbent Mike Daly and Democrat John Wojichowski.