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Local News

O’Dekirk wins Joliet mayoral race

JOLIET – Councilman Bob O’Dekirk was poised Tuesday night be the next Joliet mayor.

O’Dekirk had more than 53 percent of the vote with 73 of 73 precincts reporting in the Will County side of Joliet, and with 7 of 7 precincts reporting in Kendall County.

O’Dekirk had 7,335 votes between the two counties, while Mayor Tom Giarrante had 5,462 votes and Andy Mihelich 1,186 votes, according to unofficial vote totals from both counties. There may be some absentee or other ballotsthrough early voting options to still be counted.

“Those who supported me and those who didn’t – we have to build a team,” O’Dekirk said Tuesday night after declaring victory. “East Side, West Side, white, black, Hispanic – I want to make this city great for everybody.”

O’Dekirk’s campaign slogan was “Joliet Can Be Great Again,” an obvious criticism of what he called a decline during Giarrante’s four-year tenure.

Giarrante criticized the slogan, saying it was an insult to the people of Joliet and noting “Joliet is great already.”

Giarrante said he had no regrets on how he conducted the campaign.

“I tried to stay positive and run on my record,” Giarrante said. “Obviously, the voters didn’t believe me. Or those who believed me didn’t turn out.”

The candidates were working to turn out their voters as a hotly contested campaign drew to a close Tuesday.

Giarrante tried to hold off an aggressive challenge by O’Dekirk. Mihelich, the board president at Joliet Junior College, tried to offer an alternative to voters.

Giarrante Spokesman Erik Smith said Tuesday the campaign had been building momentum headed toward Election Day.

“We had well over 50 people knocking on doors today and making phone calls,” Smith said. “We feel very confident that we have momentum in this race.”

O’Dekirk’s camp also had about 50 people going door-to-door Tuesday afternoon, trying to bring out voters who showed an inclination to vote for the councilman. A robocall also was made Tuesday to get out the vote.

Despite the efforts to turn out voters, turnout has not appeared to be heavy through most of the day.

“It’s low, but I don’t know if it’s any lower than other elections,” O’Dekirk said.

Giarrante said turnout seemed comparable to past municipal elections.

“I just voted, and I was number 258, which is pretty good,” Giarrante said at about 6:15 p.m. “If you look at the last few municipal elections, it [turnout] is about 18 or 19 percent.”

Mihelich has predicted turnout would be lower than in 2011, when there were nine candidates in the mayor’s race. Mihelich was a candidate in that election, when Giarrante was elected to his first term as mayor.

“We’re hoping we’re turning out voters I know we could count on,” Mihelich said. “We’re just going to wait and see.”

Mihelich has tried to appeal to voters with his “101 Ideas for a New Joliet,” a list of ideas he hopes to implement if elected. Ideas have ranged from turning vacant lots into community gardens to selling Silver Cross Field if it cannot be converted into a two-sports stadium.

O’Dekirk, who first was elected to the City Council in 2011, has tried to galvanize new voters to turn out and support him. He’s called for a change in culture at City Hall and has appealed to citizens who have voiced discontent with the way the city operates.

Giarrante said Friday that his campaign had targeted voters who have shown in past elections that they will come out and vote. The mayor has made his case for re-election by pointing to new businesses coming to Joliet and stabilizing city finances since 2011.

• Reporter Brian Stanley contributed to this report.

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