Live blog: Gerard elected mayor of Champaign
Only about 30 minutes until the polls close, and I imagine the candidates are starting to get tense. I plan to be in touch with Champaign candidates throughout the night, so keep your eyes here as I do my best to keep you in tune with what the war rooms are like on election night.
In the mean time, here is a sampling of Twitter posts from a few of the candidates from earlier today to whet your appetite.
@ChampaignMayor (Jerry Schweighart's official campaign account) said:
@SchwiGerard I hope we get to meet after this is all over. I have enjoyed reading your tweets.
- Heading to Taffies. #ILelections
Stop by Original Pancake House & say "hi"...
Dos Reales on Prospect for lunch!
- Catching a bit of the Cubs game at the Esquire.
Apparently, Election Day makes you hungry.
And @SchwiGerard, my personal favorite of any election-related Twitter account this season, said:
Voter #201 #208 #212 in area 28. No lines and I'm covered in stickers!! #chambana
Carter hid my desk. Gordy says "no problems so far" I have a supply of apples and am heading to Brookens to cut the power lines #chambana
Found my desk. Dark room in basement of city. I'm drunk. Hair is amazing. Plenty of smokes. #chambana
- Gordy better remember to put me on the ballot next time and friend me on facebook & twitter. Apples have power #chambana
@SchwiGerard, of course, is a parody account of what would happen if Jerry Schweighart and Don Gerard were the same person. But it has nonetheless given me endless enjoyment throughout election season.
So keep your eyes here. And don't forget to follow me, @patrick_wade, on Twitter for even more periodic updates.
Update: 7:51 p.m.
I just got back from the city council meeting, where uncontested at-large candidates Tom Bruno, Deborah Frank Feinen and Karen Foster were legislating with ease. The three are the only candidates for three open seats.
Well, they were at ease for the most part. As I was explaining the premise of my soon-to-follow questions to Bruno, he quickly cut me off when I stated, "You're an uncontested cand--"
"I am hotly contested," he countered.
He's carefully watching the vote tally tonight, if only for bragging rights amongst his at-large counterparts.
If he comes in third, he said, "Do you know how much of an ego-crusher that is?" Even if he comes in last place, he'll still keep his seat -- but that doesn't mean he's ambivalent to the numbers.
Foster and council member Marci Dodds, who were sitting nearby and listening in on our conversation, got a kick out of his sarcastic concern about the results.
On a normal election night in a contested race, Feinen would be at Brookens Administrative Center in Urbana where the vote tallies are reported. What's she doing on this night? "Going to Brookens," she said.
"We have elections that directly impact Champaign City Council, so I'm curious about those," she said. That, and she's a regular political junkie, she admits.
Mayor Jerry Schweighart on the other hand, actually is part of a hotly contested race with challenger Don Gerard's name next to his on the ballots.
Schweighart claims he's not nervous, though.
"What's there to be nervous about?" he asked. "It's out of my control."
His next comment was not directed at Gerard, but I'm sure that is where it will land: "I cause nervousness," the incumbent said.
Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten says everything -- other than a power outage earlier today -- is going as smoothly as he could have hoped.
He's "incredibly happy" with staff and volunteers helping with the election he said, and going into today he felt as prepared as he could have been.
Of course, as he was explaining the power outage situation to me, a bright light coming from a news camera across the room shut off. Hulten caught it in the corner of his eye and shot a look that way. So it's still on his mind.
Incumbent Mayor Jerry Schweighart isn't feeling great about the numbers he's seeing.
According to the latest update, Gerard leads with 2,685 votes to Schweighart's 2,044. 28 of 40 precincts have reported.
"They don't look good," Schweighart said.
Gerard has been unreachable thus far, but I would expect he's feeling better than the incumbent. His lead widens every time more precincts report.
Newest numbers have Gerard leading Schweighart by 417 votes -- 3,692 to 3,275 -- with 36 of 40 precincts reporting.
The four precincts that are still out are all in District 5 in southwest Champaign. This could get pretty close right at the end.
The final numbers are in and Don Gerard has defeated three-term incumbent Jerry Schweighart.
"Six months ago, no one gave us a chance," he said.
So when is he going to begin auditing city departments from the top down?
"We're going to go out and have a drink first, and we'll think about that tomorrow," he said.
Paul Faraci is the unofficial winner for the District 5 city council seat. He won by a pretty wide margin (considering the low vote count). He had 787 votes. His challengers, Cathy Emanuel and Jim McGuire had 415 and 518 votes respectively. There are still some uncounted votes out there, but Hulten says it's not enough to change the outcome.
"I need to learn," Faraci said. "I need to learn from" the other council members.
The budget will be among his top priorities, he said. He wants an open discussion on how to raise revenues -- for example, the hotel-motel tax -- before cutting more services or staff.
"That's one of the things I bring to the table," he said. "I want to work together to find solutions."
Schweighart is skeptical on some of Gerard's campaign promises. Throughout the campaign, mayor-elect Gerard said some of the service cuts the city plans to make to deal with millions in budget shortfalls -- like taking a fire engine out of service at station 4 -- are not the correct solutions. That cut would remove $400,000 worth of firefighter overtime pay.
"He's gotta make up that money somewhere," Schweighart said.
Gerard will be able to "make some noise" on the city council, Schweighart said, but the mayor has no more legislative power than any other city council member. And Schweighart called the new council -- which now includes Gerard and Faraci -- an "interesting mix."
Schweighart thinks he lost a lot of respect among city's firefighters and AFSCME union throughout the budget-cutting process (he took a staunch position that the cuts to fire service and the police department's front desk were the proper actions), and he said that hurt him a lot.
"It's typical union stuff," Schweighart said.
My last update of the night simply to say:
1. Thanks for sticking here tonight, whether you followed my blog or on Twitter. Hopefully I kept you informed, and I always welcome feedback.
2. We've posted a PDF of the full results for Champaign County. Click here to access that PDF.
3. This is not the end of election coverage -- there are still plenty more stories I will be pursuing over the next few weeks, so stay tuned.