Except for the District 202 (Evanston Township High School) School Board elections, there was little drama on Tuesday night, April 9, as voters decided to retain the all nine sitting aldermen, the City clerk and the mayor.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, City Clerk Rodney Greene and six of the nine aldermen retained their offices in uncontested elections: Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward; Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward; Don Wilson, 4th Ward; Jane Grover, 7th Ward; Ann Rainey, 8th Ward; and Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward. Their terms begin next month.
Incumbents Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, and Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, beat their opponents Ed Tivador, Carlis Sutton and Mark Sloane, respectively.
For Township Supervisor, voters selected Gary Gaspard over Keith Banks in an open-seat election and returned a former Township Assessor, Sharon Strobeck-Eckersall, in an uncontested election. Mr. Gaspard and Ms. Eckersall will take office in January of next year.
Four persons were elected to the School District 65 Board in an uncontested election: Candance Chow, Claudia Garrison, Suni Kartha and incumbent Tracy Quattrocki. Their terms begin in May.
Incumbent Gretchen Livingston will return to the School District 202 Board in May, joined by Bill Geiger, Doug Holt and Pat Savage-Williams. They defeated Elena Garcia Ansani, Andy Bezaitis, incumbent Deborah Graham and Casey Miller.
With six ward races and the mayoral race uncontested, turnout was predictably low.
In the Eighth Ward, for example, only 9.5 percent of registered voters made it to the polls. The Seventh Ward topped uncontested wards with just over 15 percent participation. Even the Fifth Ward, in which Alderman Delores Holmes faced a write-in challenge from Carlis Sutton, voted at only a 12 percent clip.
The most contested aldermanic races were found in the First and Sixth wards, and turnout in those wards was about 25 percent, according to the Cook County Clerk’s website.
In the First Ward, incumbent Judy Fiske staved off a spirited challenge by Northbrook School Superintendent Ed Tivador. Though turnout was second-highest in the City, it was not enough to propel Dr. Tivador to victory, and Ald. Fiske returns to office with a 608-470 vote margin.
The Sixth Ward election was not as close. Alderman Mark Tendam, seeking re-election, coasted in with nearly two-thirds of the vote, 1,011 to 565.
“It feels terrific,” said Ald. Tendam. Last time, he said, he won with a plurality in a three-way race.
“I wanted this race to be decisive” in order to show strength and momentum, he said. The campaign with his opponent Mark Sloane grew tense at times, he said, because the City is small and the ward is smaller. Often, the opponents knew the same people, ran into the same people and went to the same places.
Ald. Holmes had praise for her opponent, who worked as hard as she did, she said. She expressed disappointment that so few people voted, but said she was thrilled that they selected her.
Dr. Tivador said that he learned a great deal in defeat, adding, “I’m not going anywhere.” He vowed to become more active in City activities in the coming years. He ran what he called an honorable campaign, but it was not enough.
Ald. Fiske could not be reached for comment. However, at about 10:30 p.m. on Election Night she walked into a gathering of Dr. Tivador’s supporters, then abruptly turned and walked out without speaking with anyone. She was carrying one of her campaign signs at the time.
Dr. Tivador, who said he had earlier called Ald. Fiske to congratulate her, tried to speak with her when she showed up, as did his wife, Maggie Tivador. Ald. Fiske did not speak with either of them. Dr. Tivador said that when he called Ald. Fiske, her only response was a single word: “Whatever.”
The unusual visit to an opponent’s election-night gathering brought a conclusion to a Fiske campaign that started and stayed nasty throughout. One observer at the Tivador event said, “I have never seen anything like that in my life… she just offended a room full of her constituents.”
School District 202
The high school board campaign, pitting eight candidates for four vacant seats, proved to be the most intriguing battle of the night. The candidates listed in the top three positions on the ballot were the night’s top three winners.
One incumbent and three newcomers were elected. Bill Geiger, tops on the ballot, paced the group with 4,120 votes. Incumbent Gretchen Livingston, second on the ballot, was second with 3,641 votes. Dough Holt, third, finished third with 3,441 votes.
Pat Savage-Williams broke the ballot position pattern, finishing fourth with 3,226 votes despite a sixth ballot position.
Elena Garcia Ansani, Andrew Bezaitis, incumbent Deborah Graham and Casey Miller were the other candidates. None came within 500 votes of fourth-place finisher, Ms. Savage-Williams.
Toward the end of the campaign, outside groups established what they called “slates” of candidates based upon the changes made to the freshman humanities and biology classes. Most of the candidates said they had nothing to do with the slating process.
Mr. Geiger said he was “eager to be part of a conversation” centered upon “changing the tone” of election campaigning in Evanston. “It is important that we recognize that slates are not part of” School Board elections, he said, adding that the City does not have slates of aldermen. The slates, he said, contributed to some misunderstanding and confusion among the electorate.
Mr. Holt, who was on the opposite “slate” from Mr. Geiger, said he did not understand where the slates came from.
“I ran on a three legged stool,” he said. “Excellence, equity and efficiency.”
One slate, that with Mr. Geiger and Ms. Savage-Williams but not Mr. Holt nor Ms. Livingston, was called the “Equity” slate. All candidates were supporting equity, Mr. Geiger said, adding that he was honored to be a part of such a qualified, solid group of candidates.
Ms. Livingston said, “None of the candidates started the campaign with any notion of a slate. … I had nothing to do with the development of a slate or my presence on a slate.” Taking it a step further, she added, “I don’t think the slates were a good thing – I don’t think they helped the dialogue.”
Pat Savage-Williams disagreed somewhat. “I think that the division [into slates] was based on the issues, so it helped people see the issues. During the forums it was really hard for us to differentiate ourselves.”
Yet, says Mr. Livingston, in the end the slates became “a non-issue.”
“The results of the race reflect the intelligence of the Evanston voters. I think they did what I was hoping they would do – use their own smarts to do what’s best for the community of Evanston…. This is a Board of seven individuals, and we need to work together as a Board … not as individuals. And I think we can work together.”