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Positioning begins for 2013 council election

ElgCity Clerk Kim Dewis sticks her head out her office door Monday morning meet potential candidates like Mitchell Esterino (2nd

Elgin City Clerk Kim Dewis sticks her head out her office door Monday morning to meet potential candidates like Mitchell Esterino (2nd from left) and Tom McCarthy, who lined up to turn in their petitions for Elgin city council to be on next year's ballot. November 19, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 21, 2012 6:13AM

ELGIN — The line wasn’t anywhere near as long as the one Sunday night at the Elgin Sam’s Club, where invited members were waiting for a chance to buy such goodies as 96-cent smartphones and $650 big-screen TVs. But five potential city council candidates did show up by 8 a.m. Monday at the city clerk’s office for the opportunity to be listed at the top of next year’s ballot.

First into city hall was Mitch Esterino, a local businessman who lives near Larkin High School on the city’s west side.

Esterino noted past community involvement as what led to him running. He said one of his issues will be exploring elimination of the monthly fee for garbage collection that went into effect this year, especially since the since the city budget will be more in the black than anticipated.

Second up to the clerk’s door was Rosemarie Kahn, an analyst for AT&T in Hoffman Estates who lives in the seven-year-old Providence subdivision on the city’s far-west side. Kahn said she saw a newspaper notice about the election, decided to run and attended a session at the YWCA on becoming a candidate. Kahn said she is seeking her first elected office in part because of a lack of representation from new parts of the city, concerns about the city’s decision last year to diversify its revenue streams, and to make sure money is being spent wisely.

Former council member Terry Gavin, a self-employed insurance broker who held a seat from 1995 to 1999, said he is running again because he sees a lack of taxpayer representation on the current council and is concerned about growth in the size of governance.

Judy Dunne, the wife of incumbent Rich Dunne, turned in her husband’s petitions. Dunne retired from the Elgin Fire Department in September to become a fire grant specialist with Federal Emergency Management Agency. The agency sent most of its Midwest office to the East Coast earlier this month in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and Dunne currently is working on Long Island.

Trying for first

Esterino, Kahn, Gavin, and Dunne will be part of a lottery held at 10 a.m. Nov. 28 in the clerk’s office for the first spot on the ballot.

The spot is coveted because there is evidence to suggest that heading the list can actually mean extra votes, regardless of a candidate’s personality or stances. According to the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, candidates at the top of a ballot earn a bigger portion of votes than they would get in any other position. Further research on voting patterns in local elections concludes that the first listing on the ballot also increases a candidate’s chances of actually winning office by almost five percentage points.

Assuming no petition challenges, City Clerk Kim Dewis said, “The four people who filed at 8 a.m. this morning will have their ballot placement determined by the lottery. After those four have been placed, the rest of the candidates will be in the order the paperwork was received.”

The 2013 election will be for five spots and will add two seats to what currently is a seven-member council. Four of the spots will be four-year terms, and one will be a two-year post.

The only candidate to come forward Monday for the two-year seat was “Driver” Tom McCarthy, a limousine driver from the Cook County portion of Elgin who unsuccessfully ran for a council seat in 2011. As such, he will be listed first for that position.

All potential council candidates must have their petitions filed by 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26, and need just 73 signatures — which is 1 percent of the mere 7,305 ballots cast in the 2011 council and mayoral election.

Possible primary

According to information provided by the clerk’s office, a primary will be held Feb. 26 if more than four candidates file for the two-year term or more than 16 file for the four-year terms. The general election will be April 9.

Twenty people who took out petition packets signed a waiver allowing their names and phone numbers to be released to the media and general public, meaning a primary is a distinct possibility.

Names on that list include incumbents Bob Gilliam and John Prigge; bicycle advocate and former city employee Tom Armstrong; frequent letter to the editor writer Clarence “Common Sense” Hayward; epidemiologist and unsuccessful GOP Kane County coroner candidate Dr. Bob Tiballi; and Anthony Nance, who once owned a downtown restaurant and jazz club with his wife and who in 2006 sued and eventually lost a lawsuit filed against the city of Elgin that contended the decision to strip the couple of a liquor license for their establishment was discriminatory.

In a town where more than 40 percent of the residents are Hispanic, the list seems to lack any names of people from such backgrounds. Sources said a group met earlier this year and tried to recruit an Hispanic candidate but couldn’t find anyone willing to run.

Another growing demographic in Elgin is the Lao community. To make their voices heard, the Lao American Organization of Elgin held a drive prior to the recent presidential election, which registered 600 voters in the area. LAOE board member Alan Thavisouk said two Lao-Americans are deciding if they will run for Elgin’s council.

In 2011, then-Councilman Dave Kaptain beat incumbent Ed Schock to become Elgin’s mayor by a 3,921 to 3,291 tally, or 630 votes, showing the influence a bloc of several hundred voters could have on next year’s outcome, especially if fewer than 15 percent of registered voters cast ballots as happened that April.

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