Prussing wins Democratic nomination for Urbana mayor
Updated 9:42 p.m.
URBANA — The focus will now turn to incumbent Laurel Prussing and her Republican challenger after she won the Democratic nomination for Urbana mayor on Tuesday night.
Prussing gathered 1,288 votes on Tuesday night — 65 percent of the total 1,994 ballots cast — to defeat her challenger, Les Stratton. That makes her the Democratic nominee in a city where Democrats have a winning history.
Stratton collected 698 votes.
Incumbent City Clerk Phyllis Clark was the second winner on Tuesday night after she defeated Robert Michael Gatsche in a primary race for city clerk. Clark has effectively won re-election, as she faces no Republican challenger in the April 9 election.
Clark won 1,418 votes to Gatsche’s 424.
Prussing said that Stratton ran an “aggressive” campaign, and he was “very gracious” in congratulating her victory on Tuesday night. She said she is looking forward to the April 9 election as she seeks a third term as Urbana’s mayor.
Republican Rex Bradfield, who ran for mayor and lost to Prussing in 2009, will be her next test in the spring election. Bradfield thinks he “absolutely” has a shot at victory this year, even though Republicans tend not to do well in Urbana.
Bradfield won 31.9 percent of the vote to Prussing’s 53.4 percent in a four-way race in that 2009 election.
He said he has a “significantly different” game plan this year but was not willing to elaborate on details Tuesday night.
“You’ll see some very interesting things and some new ideas that I have,” Bradfield said.
Prussing said the April 9 election will be decided by who shows up at the polls.
“Every election is decided by people who actually show up to vote,” Prussing said. “If you say there’s no problem, then you’ve got a huge problem. You really have to work to get people out to vote.”
As far as a plan for the next few weeks, she said there is not much to say. She plans to run against Bradfield on her record, just as she did with Stratton.
“I don’t have a plan against Rex Bradfield,” Prussing said. “I didn’t have a plan against Les Stratton.”
Stratton on Tuesday night said he was disappointed, but his work is not done.
“I’m going to go back to working on the sidelines and making sure some of issues I raised during the campaign are followed through on,” Stratton said.
Chief among his tasks, he said, will be working with community members in southeast Urbana to make sure crime problems are addressed in a way that residents want. That was one of his central campaign issues during the past few weeks.
“I wish her campaign luck,” Stratton said. “In order to move forward, she really needs to answer some of the questions that were asked during my campaign.”
Prussing said that is what she has been doing every day. She said she meets with a problem-property committee on a weekly basis to make sure property owners in that area are keeping their buildings safe and maintained.
“We do everything we can do to make people shape up or ship out,” Prussing said.
Voter turnout during Tuesday night’s election came in just under 10 percent of eligible voters. Turnout tends to be lower in spring elections — especially a Democrat-only primary election like Tuesday’s — but vote totals still came in well short of the nearly 5,000 ballots cast in Urbana’s last comparable election, a 2005 Democratic primary for mayor.
The campaign now switches its focus to Prussing and Bradfield, who will face off in an April 9 election. Bradfield said on Tuesday night that he liked Stratton’s ideas and would be very open to working with him in the future.
“I did enjoy and I paid great attention to the campaign that both individuals ran,” Bradfield said. “And I enjoyed that there was not a whole lot of muscling. It was focused on the issues.”
But he added that he did not feel either candidate offered much of a solution to the issues.
“Although his (Stratton’s) points were well taken, he wasn’t offering a solution,” Bradfield said. “Laurel (Prussing) was, ‘I’ve done this, I’ve done that.’”
He also points out that 35 percent of Prussing’s own party members voted against her, and he hopes he can convert some of those “disgruntled” voters into supporters of his campaign.