First-time candidate Cesar Guerrero may never have experienced anything like his neck-and-neck race for Joliet City Council that remained unsettled at the end of Tuesday night, but neither has his opponent with 44 years of experience in elected office.
“Nothing this close,” Robert Wunderlich said Wednesday looking back at his elections for Joliet Junior College Board of Trustees.
Wunderlich and Guerrero are waiting to find out who wins. Wunderlich has a 55-vote edge in the contest still to be determined when late arriving mail-in and provisional votes are counted, which is scheduled for April 20.
There were 2,342 mail-in ballots countywide to be counted as of Election Day, which doesn’t include those still to arrive postmarked by Tuesday. Another 90 provisional ballots will be reviewed.
Clear winners for two of the three at-large City Council seats were Incumbent Councilwoman Jan Quillman and Joe Clement, a retired Joliet police officer finishing a term on the Joliet Park District Board of Commissioners.
The outcome for the third seat was never clear as election results rolled in, although it was evident as the night progressed that it would be a contest between Guerrero and Wunderlich as the night.
“At one point on the board,” Wunderlich said, “he was beating me by three votes, and then I was beating him by one vote, and it was a yo-yo back and forth.”
Both candidates have reasons to be optimistic about the count of final mail-in ballots.
“We looked pretty good when the first round of mail-in votes was counted,” Guerrero campaign spokesman Andrew Herrera said.
Guerrero actually was in second place overall when early voting totals, including mail-in ballots, were released by the Will County Clerk’s Office before any precincts were counted. He had 156 more votes than Wunderlich, who was running fifth at that point.
Wunderlich picked up votes through the night and moved ahead of Guerrero into third place by the time 66 of the 79 precincts in Joliet were counted.
Wunderlich has strong name recognition as a longtime JJC board member and local business owner, which he thinks could be an asset in the final mail-in count.
“Usually, it’s the older population who do the mail-in,” he said. “If it’s older people in Joliet, I think I have a chance because people recognize my name.”
But this has been an unprecedented local election for early voting, which could change the dynamic of the mail-in vote.
“It’s hard to know this time around,” Herrera said. “Because of the pandemic, I think the traditional profile of who votes mail-in has shifted somewhat.”