McFarland in the lead in Joliet council race
By Bob Okon email@example.com April 9, 2013 6:52PM
Don Fisher. File photo
Updated: May 11, 2013 6:45AM
There will be a new face on the Joliet City Council, but it may be two weeks before voters know for sure which incumbents will be back.
Challenger Jim McFarland finished far ahead of the three incumbents Tuesday night with roughly 30 percent of the vote in the race for the three at-large seats on the council.
It appeared that Councilman Don Fisher would lose his seat by just 52 votes, although it will be another two weeks before scattered provisional and grace period ballots are counted.
McFarland was the one clear winner with 5,921 votes, more than 1,000 votes ahead of the three incumbents who ran nose-to-nose with each other.
“I think it’s a clear message that the residents are looking for someone with a clear, fresh perspective,” McFarland said.
McFarland also may have benefited from a turn-out-the-vote campaign in Hispanic neighborhoods. He was the one candidate to state his opposition to a possible immigrant detention center that the city is considering.
It was not clear Tuesday night whether provisional and grace period ballots could make a difference in the tight contest for the second and third spots on the ballot.
Councilwoman Jan Quillman appeared to have second place with 4,772 votes, but she said the results were too close to call Tuesday night.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s not over,” Quillman said.
Quillman, an outspoken council member who at times takes positions counter to the majority, did say McFarland’s good showing also indicated that “people want change.”
The senior council member, Michal Turk, also could be back if election night numbers hold up. He had 4,764 votes to Fisher’s 4,712.
“I’ve never seen a race this close between second and third place,” Turk said. “It’s amazing.”
Turk, too, was uncertain as to whether the vote totals will hold up to give him another term on the council where he’s served for 26 years so far.
He congratulated McFarland on the first-place finish and said, “If I’m fortunate enough to win this election I will work with him and the rest of the council to do what’s best for Joliet.”
Fisher did not know what to make of the close results, saying he did not know whether or not he could still finish with enough votes to gain re-election.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens.”
McFarland, a former city employee, has name recognition on the West Side of the city as the Troy Township clerk. And he was likely to get some support on the East Side, where he has been active in community organizations.
Fisher was trying to win his first election to the council. Fisher was appointed in 2011 to fill the seat vacated when former Councilman Thomas Giarrante was elected mayor.
Fisher, also a former city employee, took early retirement in 2009 from his position as planning director. He also has proven electability, having been a top vote-getter in his one previous election to the Joliet Township High School Board.
The council includes eight members and the mayor. Only at-large council members, elected by the entire city, were on the ballot Tuesday.
The other five council members represent separate districts throughout Joliet.
In 2009, the three incumbents — Turk, Quillman and Giarrante — easily won in a crowded field of 11 candidates. In that election, eight challengers divided up the anti-incumbent vote.
McFarland was expected to fare better as the lone challenger on the ballot after two others were ousted in legal challenges to the validity of their nominating petitions.