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Thursday, April 12, 2007 11:54 am

Elephants in the room?

Republicans say they have a shot at winning a council majority

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Ald. Bruce Strom
Untitled Document Local Republicans are optimistic about their party’s chances in Tuesday city’s election, hoping to even wrest a majority on the officially nonpartisan Springfield City Council. GOP-backed candidates could garner four to six seats of the 10 seats in next week’s municipal election, and even score “a couple of upsets,” predicts Tony Libri, chairman of the Sangamon County Republican Party. Even if the party doesn’t win a majority on the 10-member body, Libri is confident that “we’ll be able to get six votes when we need them.”
For the past four years, the council has had five Republican members and five Democrats. Mayor Tim Davlin, who is running for reelection, is a Democrat — and has been a tiebreaker in some votes. Davlin, who beat Libri in 2003, is facing a challenge by Ward 10 Ald. Bruce Strom, a Republican. But Strom, who has waged an uphill campaign, trails the incumbent mayor in fundraising and endorsements. Libri says that his organization has been polling in each of the contested ward races in which a Republican is seeking office and the results indicate that contests in Wards 4, 7, and 10, are neck-and-neck. In Ward 4, the candidates are Republican Frank Lesko, a member of the Springfield Park Board; and Mike Buscher, who’s supported by Democrats. In Ward 7, Republican Debbie Cimarossa, a member of the Sangamon County Board, faces Democrat Joe Rock. In Ward 10, the candidates who are vying to succeed Strom are Democrat Barry McAnarney and Republican Tim Griffin, also a member of the County Board. Libri adds that the Ward 8 race, between newcomers George Petrilli and Kristofer Theilen, who’s backed by the GOP, is “very tight” and that Republican Steve Dove is doing surprisingly well against incumbent Ward 9 Ald. Tom Selinger, a Democrat. Selinger’s hefty $92,000 campaign fund, Libri adds, is inconsequential because “you can’t spend a lot on a ward race without seeming extravagant.”
Davlin says he’s not too concerned about the composition of the next council. “The council is nonpartisan, so I am excited to work with everyone for the greater good of the city,” Davlin says, “regardless of whether they are veterans or elected to the position for the first time.”
Bill Becker, Davlin’s campaign manager, says that the mayor’s campaign hasn’t done any polling. Tim Timoney, head of the Sangamon County Democratic Party, was out of town this week and did not return telephone messages. This week, Strom detailed his agenda for the first 100 days of his administration should he be elected. Though a Republican-controlled council might help get his initiatives passed, Strom, like Davlin, plays down the importance of party affiliation. “The last four years has been more about party than it should be. This mayor has treated people in a very partisan way, and it’s tended to polarize aldermen and the mayor on controversial issues,” Strom says. Without being privy to the Sangamon County Republican poll data, Strom doesn’t doubt Libri’s assertion that Republicans could gain as many as six seats on the 10-member board. As he sees it, Ward 4 and Ward 8 could go either way.  Strom also characterizes attorney Sam Cahnman — who’s competing in Ward 5 against fellow Democrat and recently retired Fire Chief Bob Bartnick — as an “independent Democrat” who could break from the party on some votes. Ward 2 Ald. Frank McNeil — who, like Strom, can’t seek another four years in office because of term limits — says that he’s given most of his attention to the Ward 2 contest but wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if Republicans took over the council. He believes that in recent years the members of the council have reached the point at which they’re tackling many tough problems regardless of their political parties’ stances, especially on the city’s east side. “Finally there is a focus on issues of importance council-wide, from a community perspective,” McNeil says. Here are snapshot views of the individual contests in the city election:
Mayor Timothy Davlin (incumbent), Bruce Strom, Mario Ingoglia (write-in)

City Clerk Cecilia Tumulty (incumbent), Gerald “Jerry” Goldblatt For your information — A former alderwoman, Tumulty says she’s proud of having “brought the clerk’s office out of the dark ages” by making information pertaining to City Council available on the Web. Her opponent, former District 186 school-board member Goldblatt, wants to raise the office’s profile and disseminate information more quickly by issuing press releases as soon as information becomes available.
Treasurer Jim Langfelder (incumbent) No contest
Ward 1 (Lake Springfield) Frank Edwards (incumbent) No contest
Ward 2 (east side) Gail Simpson, Levon Richmond Eastern philosophy — There’s no dispute between Simpson, a supervisor at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services; and Richmond, a compliance officer for the Illinois Department of Transportation: The east side of Springfield needs a beefed-up police presence, which would make people there feel more safe, which might in turn lead to greater and more rapid investment by developers and city leaders. “It’s unconscionable that the powers that be don’t realize that what’s good for the east side is good for the city of Springfield,” Simpson says. She’s the choice of incumbent Ald. Frank McNeil. Richmond is backed by the Sangamon County Democratic Minority Caucus.
Ward 3 (northeast side) Frank Kunz, John B. Young, Michael W. Gragg (write-in) Road crew — Often lumped with Democrats on the officially nonpartisan council, Kunz, the owner of a heating-and-cooling business, is really one of the more independent voices on the council. Although Kunz is well liked by his constituents, Young, an operating engineer and former Marine, has managed to quietly best him in fundraising with the help of organized- labor groups. The main issue here is finding ways to fix streets, sidewalks, and make other infrastructure improvements.
Ward 4 (north end) Frank Lesko, Michael Buscher Close call — After write-in votes were tabulated, Republican Lesko came out on top in the general primary. Still, real-estate broker Buscher raised two-and-a-half times more money than Lesko in the reporting period between Jan. 29 and March 18. Lesko serves on the Springfield Park Board.
Ward 5 (downtown) Sam Cahnman, Bob Bartnick The “Can-man” vs. the fireman — Although recently retired fire-department head Bartnick has denied any involvement, will Cahnman, a former County Board member, get a boost from outrage over recent negative polling calls asking about alleged romantic encounters between Cahnman and several of his clients?
Ward 6 (central city) Mark Mahoney (incumbent), Tina Jannazzo The battle for “old Springfield” — A science teacher, Jannazzo has been promoting a planning principle known as smart growth, in which development is redirected toward the inner city to offset urban sprawl. Mahoney, meanwhile, is reportedly working on a plan to address the city’s garbage woes. He is the clerk of the Illinois House of Representatives.
Ward 7 (west of MacArthur) Debbie Cimarossa, Joe Rock Loss prevention — What to do about the city’s receding hairline — the rash of closures by businesses along MacArthur in favor of locations farther west — is the major economic issue facing the ward. Cimarossa spent two decades at City Water, Light & Power and serves on the County Board. Rock works as a barber. Others include addressing traffic and safety issues, particularly through residential neighborhoods and along Lawrence Avenue. Ward 8 (Northwest side) George Petrilli, Kristofer “Kris” Theilen Young bloods — The victor in this contest will be youngest member of the council. Illinois Department of Public Health employee Theilen’s yard sign sits in front of the home of outgoing Ald. Irv Smith, who still has a little juice around here. Petrilli, who left a job with the state Capital Development Board to seek office, early on avoided identifying with a party, although he says he did some freelance video surveillance for Gov. Rod Blagojevich last year, and Ward 4 Ald. Chuck Redpath made an appearance when Petrilli announced his candidacy in December.
Ward 9 (near north end) Tom Selinger (incumbent), Steve Dove Not-so-fun fact for challenger — Selinger’s campaign fund had $91,942 in it before the end of last year. Responding to the fact that several of Selinger’s relatives are employed by the city, Dove, a real-estate broker, pledges that should he win election he won’t seek to land members of his family jobs with the city, saying that nepotism waters down trust between citizens and elected leaders. Selinger is a lobbyist.  
Ward 10 (west of Chatham) Barry McAnarney, Tim Griffin Go west — All signs indicate that westward expansion is unlikely to slow anytime soon. McAnarney, executive director of a union pension fund, wants to streamline the zoning process, including incorporating the use of GIS technology. Griffin, who is employed by the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, is one of the few candidates to address the area’s “brain drain” problem: “I get tired of the best and the brightest who go away to college and go on to greener pastures.” McAnarney agrees with McNeil that the residency requirement for city workers should be reinstated; Griffin opposes the plan.  

Contact R.L. Nave@illinoistimes.com
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