Both winning and losing candidates in McHenry’s City Council races are unsure how well voters responded to being endorsed by Mayor Wayne Jett in this month’s election, with one of the aldermanic contestants he supported falling to a write-in campaign.
While no one in McHenry made a bid to challenge Jett in his bid for reelection, voters favored only incumbent Ryan Harding to again represent the Fourth Ward out of the candidates Jett recommended.
Harding beat newcomer Chris Bassi.
But Bobbi Baehne, who was backed by Jett, ran for First Ward and lost to incumbent Vic Santi, who ran as a write-in candidate to win his fifth council election.
Jett said backing Baehne might hurt her with some voters, but said he also thinks her campaign could have been more active. Baehne’s campaign posted on Facebook a message thanking Santi for his service months ahead of the election and while he still was running a write-in campaign.
But the mayor in a Wednesday interview vowed to avoid making endorsements in future aldermanic elections.
“Let’s face it, 50% of people hate me and 50% of people like me. It all depends on who votes. At least I feel that way,” Jett said. “... You still have to do your job and do your part and hit the doors. You can’t just go ride on coattails.”
Baehne said she was unable to physically knock on doors due to a surgery she had last year, impeding her campaign. But she remains glad to have had the mayor’s support, saying her campaign did some voter analysis of opinions on Jett.
“The feedback on the mayor was really positive,” Baehne said.
“The mayor he showed his support through social media,” he said. “But the support from the mayor I think is good because I think the public likes him a lot and likes the direction the city is going that he is leading. It never hurts to have his support.”
Jett, who does not plan to run for a third term, said he chose to support Baehne to try to get new people onto the council who might have fresh ideas, adding he thinks term limits at the city level are a good idea.
“If I was in the position of mayor, I would not have endorsed anyone,” Santi said, adding the mayor has since been congratulatory and cordial about his victory. “We’re all independent candidates working to get our support and to get people to come and vote for us.”
The mayor isn’t the only person in the city in favor of capping how long someone can serve as a McHenry alderman.
Former Alderwoman Geri Condon suggested setting the limit at 12 years – she served 16 herself and said that was too long – at Monday’s council meeting, and Third Ward Alderman Jeffrey Schaefer, who was also aiming for a fifth term in the election, said he thinks her comments were targeted at Santi.
Jett early in the campaign also supported Schaefer, who lost to Frank McClatchey, a former three-term alderman for McHenry in the 1980s and ′90s.
“It goes both ways. There are some people who complain about things, and some people who are saying [Jett’s] doing a good job,” McClatchey said.
Schaefer, however, said the mayor’s support for his aldermanic run tapered off as the campaign progressed, and he isn’t sure if getting more vocal reinforcement from Jett down the stretch would have helped or further hurt his effort. Jett allowed both McClatchey and Schaefer to post campaign signs at the mayor’s private business location, the aldermanic candidates said.
Having two controversial development projects come up to the council as preliminary proposals for 3rd Ward properties – the first a 7-Eleven gas station at the vacant former First Midwest Bank building and the second an apartment complex behind the shopping center at Blake Boulevard – impacted voter opinions of Schaefer, he theorized.
The mayor has so far been open to both of those projects moving forward, although they have only been presented by developers in preliminary discussions.
“In both cases, I didn’t support them,” Schaefer said. “But being a supporter of the mayor I think did legitimately cost me there.”