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Evanston elected Elizabeth Tisdahl, alderman of the Seventh Ward, its new mayor in last night’s landslide victory. In a four-way race, Ms. Tisdahl collected just over 62 percent of the votes cast. Stuart Opdyke finished a distant second with about 17.5 percent, followed by Barnaby Dinges (12.5 percent) and Jeanne Kamps Lindwall (8 percent). It was a stunning victory in a hard-fought campaign to replace Mayor Lorraine Morton, retiring after 16 years at the City’s helm.
The poll results were quick and decisive. As precincts began reporting, the outcome was immediately clear. While many, including the candidates themselves, had expected a closer race, Ms. Tisdahl’s overwhelming victory showed the power of endorsements and support from Evanston‘s elected officials.
Ms. Tisdahl addressed a crowd of enthusiastic and excited supporters at the restaurant Koi at close to , thanking them for their help and support while warning that the work had just begun. “Don’t think that helping me is over and done with,” she said, with the City’s budget problems highlighted by the current economic environment serving as a sobering element in the night’s celebration.
Many of Evanston‘s local elected officials stopped by to offer congratulations and good wishes. State Senator Jeff Schoenberg, Mayor Morton, aldermen Ann Rainey, Lionel Jean-Baptiste, Delores Holmes, and Anjana Hansen were among the supporters. Ald. Rainey, Mayor Morton and Ald. Tisdahl shared a moment of reflection over their history together, with Ald. Rainey noting that she ran against Mayor Morton in 1993, and now stood shoulder-to-shoulder with her, having successfully supported Ms. Tisdahl’s campaign.
During the campaign, Ms. Tisdahl’s support from the Democratic Party of Evanston was a sticking point for Mr. Dinges, who characterized the race as “the outsider versus the machine.” But Mr. Opdycke, who called Ms. Tisdahl to congratulate her at about , took a different view. “I do not begrudge her her supporters. She’s worked hard and made a lot of friends, and that counts for something. She’s earned the support of the Democratic organization in Evanston.”
About 100 people gathered at the Opdyke house as the results came in. Mr. Opdyke addressed them around , and the mood was resigned but content. “She’ll make an excellent mayor,” Mr. Opdyke said. Asked what was next, Mr. Opdycke replied, “You mean after I run for governor?” He says he will continue to practice law, remain on the plan commission, “but I’m not going to run for anything. Nothing political.” He is proud of the other candidates and the campaign, and says he sticks by his earlier statement that this was a “model campaign” run by all four candidates.
Mr. Dinges spoke to a gathering of about 75 supporters at campaign headquarters around , offering congratulations to “the likely new mayor,” Ald. Tisdahl. He praised the hard work of his campaign, which he said was “determined and focused” and about ideas and issues rather than ugly personal attacks.
“I will find a way to act upon what I’ve learned and what I know about Evanston politics,” he added, noting that the new mayor will need a great deal of help to make Evanston a better place.
Ms. Lindwall did not have a public gathering, but by telephone told the RoundTable that she was glad that she ran. She will return to work tomorrow, having given her all to the campaign. “I feel I won either way; I won just by running,” she added.
The turnout appears to have been slightly down from what it was four years ago, perhaps a product of the fact that it occurred during local spring break. Unofficially, 10,307 cast a vote in the mayoral contest, down from 11,831 in 2005. (Official results will be submitted April 22, and numbers might change slightly at that time.)
Early voting, electronic voting machines, efficient and organized staff, and the dedication of volunteers at the polls all contributed to a smooth election process marred only by disruptions at several Fifth-Ward polling places allegedly caused by Mr. Dinges’ supporters questioning poll workers credentials (See accompanying story).
Polls closed at , and the first precinct – number 6 of Ward 1 – reported to the second floor of the Civic Center (the temporary Election Central) at . Once precinct information was received, it was transmitted electronically to the County Clerk‘s office in Chicago. Results were not available through the Evanston City Clerk’s office but from the County election website, voterinfonet.com. Cook County Election official Befekadu Retta oversaw the process.
Congratulations to mayor-elect Elizabeth Tisdahl, to City Clerk Rodney Greene, to Township Supervisor Patricia Vance, to Township Assessor Bonnie Wilson and to the newly elected and re-elected aldermen – Judy Fiske, Lionel Jean-Baptiste, Melissa Wynne, Donald Wilson, Delores Holmes, Mark Tendam, Jane Grover, Ann Rainey and Coleen Burrus.
Problems at Several Fifth Ward Precincts
On a day with virtually no issues at the polls, several Fifth Ward voting places stood out as the lone exception. Representatives of the Barnaby Dinges campaign allegedly challenged the credentials of several judges and poll waters at several precincts in the Fifth Ward, going so far as to threaten to shut down the vote according to Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward. In the end, the vote continued unhindered.
City Clerk Rodney Greene, who said he was attempting to visit every polling station in the City to check for problems during the day, found himself called to Fifth Ward stations to address the challenges. “”It’s been just crazy,”” he said after the polls closed. He described the allegations as “”bullying, trying to discredit people. [Campaigns should] win on the merits instead of trying to bully people…”” Not a single issue raised was legitimate, said Mr. Greene, and all polling places were fully legal and in compliance with Cook County regulations.
The police were not called, noted Mr. Greene, but he was summoned to several sites. At each location everything was found to be proper. He said that while Mr. Dinges’ campaign workers challenged the credentials of poll workers, they never asked to look at them. Upon arrival, Mr. Greene reports, he said to the protesters, “”He’s got credentials. Did anybody ask for them?”” When told no, Mr. Greene requested, and poll workers produced, valid credentials signed by Cook County Clerk David Orr.
Ald. Holmes stated, “”There was a lot of protesting as to whether there were enough [election] judges mounted by the campaign of Dinges – intimidating, saying they were out of code. But they knew there were enough. They were protesting everything. … The way in which they were doing it, they were intimidating to people.””
Challenging the credentials of election judges or poll watchers is itself a permitted and lawful activity.
Ald. Holmes said she knew the Dinges campaign was involved because
Mr. Dinges and his campaign manager Jerry Green came to one of the stations. She said she “”told them I did not appreciate their making unfounded challenges.””
Mr. Dinges had no comment for the RoundTable on the matter, saying that he “”was not involved”” in the challenges.
The tactics did not occur at just one precinct, but appeared to be limited to the Fifth Ward, said Mr. Greene. Unofficially, 627 votes were cast in the 5th Ward Aldermanic race, compared with 821 votes cast in 2005. Ald. Holmes received 473 votes, or 75.4 percent of the total votes cast in the ward.