Unofficial results: Cohen Barnes takes lead to be DeKalb’s next mayor

Barnes with 822-vote lead appears to best Ward 1 Alderman Carolyn Morris

Updated 10:40 p.m. Tuesday, April 6:

DeKALB – With unofficial results in and full precincts reporting, and 136 outstanding vote-by-mail ballots remaining, DeKalb native and businessman Cohen Barnes is in place to be the next mayor of DeKalb.

With 26 out of 26 precincts in the city of DeKalb reporting, Barnes maintained a lead over opponent and First Ward Alderwoman Carolyn Morris the whole night, as early votes and current vote-by-mail ballots were added first to the count, according to the DeKalb County Clerk & Recorder’s office.

Barnes received 62.38%, or 2,264, of the votes. Morris had 1,442, or 37.62%, votes, for a margin between the candidates of 822 votes.

Barnes said he is thankful for the people of DeKalb for voting him into office as the next mayor.

“I’m really looking forward to getting into this office and just building some excitement and some energy and getting people to feel even more proud of the community we live in,” Barnes said. “DeKalb is a great, great place. I want everyone to feel what I feel.”

Barnes, who served on the DeKalb District 428 school board when the DeKalb High School referendum passed, was born and raised in DeKalb. He currently is the CEO and owner of Sundog IT, based in downtown DeKalb.

Barnes said he is “excited to get started” as mayor of the city he grew up in. He said he’s particularly looking forward to sitting down with all of the City’s department heads, City Manager Bill Nicklas and current mayor Jerry Smith.

Barnes said he also plans on addressing issues regarding landlords that have acted irresponsibly in the surrounding area. He said he is aware of the City already looking at policy and ordinances to help alleviate the problems and he wants to keep looking at more options to further address those issues.

“We have to figure out Hunter Properties,” Barnes said. “We have to do more, plain and simple. What we have been doing has been some action, but there has to be more progress we can make there and the quickest progress. That is the biggest issue in our community and we have to go out there and resolve it once and for all.”

Barnes also said he believed that he and Morris ran clean campaigns.

“Running against Carolyn was great because we took the high road all of the time,” Barnes said. “The campaign never got dirty. We were never critical of each other. We both campaigned on the merits of ourselves and what we bring to the table. And I thought that was fantastic. So now we have a good working relationship and we’ll be able to work together on council.”

Morris was elected to serve DeKalb’s first ward in April of 2019. She currently is the executive director of RAMP, a non-profit advocacy group for people with disabilities which operates out of offices in Rockford, DeKalb and Freeport.

The City’s first ward includes DeKalb precincts 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9, according to DeKalb County documents. According to unofficial election results, Morris won with more than 70% of the vote in DeKalb precincts 4 and 5, which are larger parts of the Annie Glidden North neighborhood.

Morris said she agreed with Barnes and she, too, believes the two candidates ran clean and issues-based campaigns. However, she is still disappointed about the results and felt she was the better candidate for the office, she said.

“I have to keep it real,” Morris said. “I feel like the patriarchy won.”

Morris said she and Barnes knew each other for a while leading up to the mayoral race and she believes she and Barnes will have a good working relationship going forward.

“I am thrilled to be able to continue to serve as first ward alderman and I’m thankful to have that opportunity to continue to serve the first ward and really make strides there,” Morris said.

Doug Johnson, DeKalb County clerk and recorder, said as of Tuesday, there were 136 outstanding vote by mail ballots.

• Daily Chronicle reporter Katrina Milton contributed to this story.

Katie Finlon

Katie Finlon covers local government and breaking news for DeKalb County in Illinois. She has covered local government news for Shaw Media since 2018 and has had bylines in Daily Chronicle, Kendall County Record newspapers, Northwest Herald and in public radio over the years.