Councilwoman Jan Quillman, the only incumbent in the race for Joliet City Council, Joe Clement and Robert Wunderlich – three candidates characterized during the campaign as the mayor’s slate – appeared to be the winners in the race for three council seats Tuesday.
Wunderlich had a 55-vote edge over political newcomer Cesar Guerrero once all precincts were in, but late-arriving mail-in votes are yet to be counted.
Quillman and Clement, a retired Joliet police officer finishing a term on the Joliet Park District board, were well ahead as the top two vote-getters in the contest.
The final tally once 79 of 79 Joliet precincts in Will and Kendall counties were counted was:
• Jan Quillman – 3,465
• Joe Clement – 3,225
• Robert Wunderlich – 2,982
• Cesar Guerrero – 2,927
• Hudson Hollister – 2,490
• Warren Dorris – 2,414
• Glenda Wright-McCullum – 1,922
• Jeremy Brzycki – 1,216
• Roger Powell Sr. – 1,079
• Nicole Lurry – 1,071
• Isiah Williams Jr. – 1,042
• James Lanham – 586
The results were unofficial, and mail-in ballots that arrived in the last few days are yet to be counted.
Quillman said she was “very happy that the citizens of Joliet have put their trust in me.”
Quillman said it was “an election like I’ve never been through. There was a lot of negative, but I tried to be positive throughout.”
Guerrero was making his first run for elected office.
“I’m exhausted over the last 24 hours,” Guerrero said just after the polls closed, adding that he had been working with about two hours of sleep to turn out as many votes as possible.
Guerrero ran an aggressive campaign gaining attention and endorsements from the Illinois Nurses Association and U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Chicago.
“I’m incredibly proud of the team for the work they put in (the campaign),” he said. “I don’t think anybody expected us to get this far.”
Clement also said hard work and reaching out to as many voters as possible paid off.
“We worked extremely hard in this campaign,” Clement said. “I personally knocked on 3,000 doors myself.”
Clement, Quillman and Wunderlich all were characterized as being backed by Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, although the mayor never made any public endorsement.
Clement said the characterization was “the opposition’s ploy to make it look like we all were in cahoots together.”
“I’m my own person. No one’s telling me what to do,” Clement said.
Wunderlich, a 44-year trustee at Joliet Junior College with strong name recognition, early in the campaign planned to run on a team with Dorris, a critic of the mayor, but the two went separate ways.
“People said they want change. We’ll see tonight if they voted for change,” Dorris said before the polls closed.
Quillman, Clement and Wunderlich were the endorsed by local building trades unions, giving them advantages in funding and support. All three gathered Tuesday at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 176 hall to await election results.
Clement said his campaign sent out 100,000 pieces of mail.
Hudson Hollister, who mounted an aggressive campaign with mailers and advertising, often pointed to the so-called council wars that divided the City Council as it went through three interim city managers in the last two years.
Hollister predicted before Tuesday that voters were “tired of the council wars, and they want someone who’s going to be independent of the factions involved in the council wars.”
Early voting throughout Will County was unprecedented as voters took advantage of mail-in ballots as never before.
Still, a few council candidates hoping for a surge of interest in changing city hall said they were disappointed with low turnout on election day.
Lurry, the widow of Eric Lurry Jr., whose death during the course of a drug arrest in January 2020 led to a number of protests last year, was campaigning for more accountability and transparency in city government.
“I’m very surprised,” Lurry said of what she saw of turnout. “I thought people would definitely want to come out and see some change because so much has been going on with the City Council.”
Guerrero was among candidates backed by Working Families Joliet, which was formed last year to promote change on the City Council.
Other candidates endorsed by the group were Jeremy Brzycki, who said he got strong support from the group, and Isiah Williams Jr., who said support faltered when he differed from the organization on issues.
Glenda Wright-McCullum was one of two commissioners with the Housing Authority of Joliet on the ballot.
“This has been a wonderful ride. It’s been a great journey,” Wright-McCullum said. “Just to get out and talk with the people has been rewarding.”
Housing commissioner Roger Powell Sr. also was on the ballot.
First-time candidate James Lanham said it was challenging to get recognition amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think everything went as well as can be expected with COVID and me being a new candidate,” Lanham said.