EG A Red Town? These Progressives May Disagree

Considered by many around the state to be a Republican hotbed, it turns out East Greenwich attracts avowed liberals too.

Mitt Romney may have lost Rhode Island to Barack Obama by a two to one margin, but not in East Greenwich, where he won 3,649 to 3,535, one of only three towns in the state to go Romney. (The other two? Scituate and West Greenwich.)

EG also elected (with the help of West Greenwich) the only new Republican state legislator in Rhode Island – Anthony Giarrusso, our new Dist. 30 representative – in a year that saw many state GOP candidate losses. 

Add to that the re-elected all-GOP Town Council, a GOP majority on the School Committee (4 GOP, 2 Democrats, 1 independent), and a Republican Town Moderator, and it certainly looks like East Greenwich is about as red a town as you can get in blue Rhode Island.

So it's interesting to note that some of the most progressive people in the state make their home here in EG. And two progressive businesses happen to be headquartered right in downtown.

Consider Checkmate, a public relations and marketing firm on Main Street owned by EG resident Brad Default. While it has a range of clients, among them are some of the biggest unions in the state, including NEARI (National Education Association of Rhode Island), Rhode Island AFL-CIO, Working R.I., Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, and SEIU (Service Employees International Union).

Dufault grew up in Warwick, the son of longtime Democratic politico Guy Dufault. Both Dufaults now live in East Greenwich. 

"We both live here in enemy territory," Guy joked earlier this month. "Yeah, I guess there's a certain irony for kind of dyed-in-the-wool liberal Democrats to be living in East Greenwich." 

Brad said Checkmate is located on Main Street because it's convenient and, he noted, "the restaurants are great."

Just a few blocks away is the headquarters for RI Future, a progressive blog owned and edited by Bob Plain, who grew up in East Greenwich. 

Plain, who returned to Rhode Island and East Greenwich in 2008 after many years away to help found my02818.com (which became EG Patch), took over RI Future last winter and has since significantly raised the profile of the progressive voice in Rhode Island.

He said East Greenwich isn't a fiscally conservative town.

"It's really not as conservative as the town fathers would have people believe," he said. "In fact, both the School Committee and the Town Council tend to govern like progressives would want. They invest heavily in services and schools and parks and amenities and we have very open government that is pretty responsive to the will of the people."

It's not a perfect fit for Plain: "It's nice looking here and the people can be nice and we certainly have our fair share of very nice stuff, but it also feels kind of vapid here sometimes. I don't like that vibe. I prefer soul to nice stuff and EG has a lot of the latter and not so much of the former." 

EG resident Carolyn Mark, newly elected to the School Committee (one of its two Democrats), is the president of Rhode Island National Organization of Women. Her two children attend East Greenwich schools and, among other things, she's on the board of the East Greenwich Education Foundation, a nonprofit that provides grants to teachers of EG public schools.

Her decision to run for School Committee, she said in October, was based on "a tremendous sense of gratitude to East Greenwich for providing my children with a great education." 

Bob Walsh, executive director of RINEA, the local branch of the National Education Association, a teachers union, moved here with his wife "seven or eight years ago," he said.

"It's a very well-run community," Walsh said. "It's balanced." He pointed out that Giarrusso didn't "win" East Greenwich; his Democratic opponent Mark Schwager did (3,055 to 3,010). West Greenwich gave Giarrusso his margin of victory.

"We like it here very much," said Walsh. 

[Editor's note: This story has been edited since it posted at 5:30 a.m. to correct an error. Carolyn Mark is not on the board of the EGEA. I apologize for the error.]


Chuck Newton November 26, 2012 at 07:42 PM
A labor union rep walks into a bar next door to the factory and is about to order a drink to celebrate Obama’s victory when he sees a guy close by wearing a Romney for President button and two beers in front of him. He doesn't have to be an Einstein to know that this guy is a Republican. So, he shouts over to the bartender so loudly that everyone can hear, "Drinks for everyone in here, bartender, but not for the Republican." Soon after the drinks have been handed out, the Republican gives him a big smile, waves at him, then says, "Thank you!" in an equally loud voice. This infuriates the union rep. The union rep once again loudly orders drinks for everyone except the Republican. As before, this does not seem to bother the Republican. He continues to smile, and again yells, "Thank you!" The union man once again loudly orders drinks for everyone except the Republican. As before, this does not seem to bother the Republican. He continues to smile, and again yells, "Thank you!" The union man asks the bartender, "What the hell is the matter with that Republican? I've ordered three rounds of drinks for everyone in the bar but him, and all the silly ass does is smile and thanks me. Is he nuts?" "Nope," replies the bartender. "He owns this place."
Sean H November 26, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Rhode Island is a mess economically by anyone with ears and eyes can hear and see and yet there is an article talking about how in one of the outposts of the GOP, it is barely GOP. So we have a state controlled by the Democrats and a once vibrant state has all of its children leaving to find a job. I mean I dont know what that says to anyone with eyes and ears...but I can tell you what it says to me...
ED November 27, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Is this the same Default who delt his hand on an open mike about black mailing Gov Carcieri. Guess he had to wait for the Gov to move out before moving in.. Why not a blue district Guy?....Ted
Chuck Barton November 27, 2012 at 11:33 AM
Leo - The original article said East Greenwich Education Association - which is the teachers' union. It did not say Foundation. Actually, I do not particularly hate the union having dealt with it for 12 years on the School Committee. On the other hand, if a school committee member was on the board of the the teachers' union it would represent a major conflict in negotiations and grievances. Mr. Gregson's comment and mine were perfectly appropriate to what was written at the time.
KK November 28, 2012 at 04:10 AM
I am glad to see that in a community like East Greenwich (wealthy) that there were 3, 535 voters who chose to vote for Obama. I was afraid it would be a lot more lopsided toward the gop. What does it matter what your party is if you are a member of the school committe or town council? Do they follow a party line? I think they should all be independents.


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