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Fil-Am not conceding mayoral race in Illinois’ second largest city

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Fil-Am not conceding mayoral race in Illinois’ second largest city

Rick Guzman Mayoy Weisner 0516

Fil-An mayoral candidate Richard “Rick” Guzman (right) expresses his appreciation for the endorsement of immediate past Aurora, Illinois Mayor Tom Weisner to his candidacy in the April 4 elections. Guzman has not conceded the race. CONTRIBUTED

CHICAGO—The Filipino American mayoral candidate in the second largest city in Illinois is not conceding the April 4th election with the latest vote count giving him and his African American opponent 50 percent each of the ballots cast.

Rick Guzman, 39, has 7,404 votes—170 short of the 7, 574 received by an incumbent city alderman, Richard Irvin, who declared victory late evening on election day in the City of Aurora, located 40 miles southwest of Chicago.

Guzman who served as the assistant chief of staff of the immediate past mayor, Tom Weiser, who decided not to run for reelection, issued a statement April 5 stating that the unofficial count was “too close to call because of the outstanding vote-by-mail, grace period, overseas military and provisional ballots yet to be tabulated.”

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Guzman said in the press release, “I believe that every vote counts and that every vote should be counted. I am 100 percent prepared to accept the final decision of the voters once those votes have been received and tabulated.”

Guzman, however, congratulated his opponent on a “great campaign” and said it had “been an honor to run for mayor alongside you.” Irvin had run twice for mayor before, compared with Guzman’s first.

Run-off election

Guzman and Irvin emerged as the two top vote-getters in a field of five candidates who vied for the position in last February’s primary. No one garnered a majority, forcing a run-off last Tuesday.

Guzman, whose father was born in the Philippines has an Irish-Scotch American mother. He has a law degree from Northern Illinois University and had served as a government official in the State Capital of Springfield under both Republican and Democratic governors.

He highlighted his ability to work under a bipartisan environment. He was endorsed by a major Illinois newspaper based on his platform of citywide economic development programs and his stand on attracting diverse residents into Aurora, which is located near the Fox River, home to lucrative river casinos.

Former mayor Weisner, who resigned last year due to health problem, both Illinois U.S.Senators and the city’s police chief and fire chief had endorsed his candidacy.  Weisner called Guzman “truly a non-partisan public official.” He credited Guzman’s technical expertise with the increase in the city’s revenue and employment during his administration.

In the 2000 U.S. Census, Aurora’s population stood at 143,000 with 900 Filipino Americans listed as residents. The number has grown at a steady pace in the past two decades because of new businesses relocating in the area. New housing has also increased at a fast clip.

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Other election results

In related development, Arnulfo R. Nobles was decisively defeated by incumbent Mayor of Oakbrook Terrace Tony Ragucci.  Fewer than 500 went to cast their ballots in this small southwest suburb of Chicago, known for its hotels and offices. Noble got 147 votes to Ragucci’s 345—with all the village’s four precincts reporting.

Successful Filipino American candidates in the Tuesday elections, include Ed Ramos, who got reelected as trustee in a contentious race in the Village of Morton Grove where Steven Schmidt who has Filipino American-in-laws also won a seat in the village’s park district commission, making him the sole winner in the opposition party that challenged the ruling Action Party of which Ramos is a member.

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Morton Grove, Illinois Village Trustee Ed Ramos (left) and Village Mayor Dan di Maria won reelections by wide margins (75 to 25) in the April 4 elections due to the solid Fil-Am votes. PINOY/Anong Santos

Schmidt, 39, in an emotional statement,  attributed his victory to “the support he got from Filipino voters,” who crossed party lines to deliver the 110-vote margin of  his victory . His party mates got only 25 percent of the ballots cast in this village north of Chicago.

On the other hand, Kenneth Mantel, the son of a Filipino mother from Cavite, came in 340-vote short of becoming a park commissioner in the Village of Skokie, also north of Chicago. Anyway, Mantel, 38, expressed appreciation for the support from the Filipino American voters and vowed to fight for their interests in his other capacity as a community advocate.

In the conservative DuPage County, Robert P. Tolentino was one of the four Republicans who swept the election for all the trustee slots in the Bloomingdale Township.

Tolentino unsuccessfully ran in 2005 for mayor of Glendale Heights, a position held by the late Joven Fajardo, the first and, so far, only Filipino American elected mayor in Illinois.

More concerned citizens

In the hometown of Hillary R. Clinton, Park Ridge resident Aurora A. Austriaco was one of the four candidates who won in the contested election for Maine Township School Board. Maine East High School, from where Clinton graduated in the late 1960s, is part of the township. Austriaco was formerly president of the Chicago BAR Association.

In Peoria, Illinois—home of Caterpillar Industries—two brothers, Lito and Allan Capati, also ran for seats in two school boards. Allan won a seat but not Lito. The Capatis have been business owners in the area for the past 30 years, supplying metal parts to various U.S. industries.

Many in the Filipino American community in Illinois are glad to see more members running for elective positions. Notably, it has been a long struggle to convince Filipino immigrants to participate in civic affairs.

Morton Grove Trustee Ed Ramos bewails the “silly attitude” of those who refused to register and vote because of their unfounded fear that they might be called for jury duty.

A fellow villager of Ramos added, “So what if we were called to serve as jurors? They should see that as a privilege and honor.”

But with the recent electoral developments, many are expressing optimism that Filipinos are evolving from just hardworking immigrants into more concerned and involved citizens.

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TAGS: Fil-Am candidates Illinois elections, Filipino American empowerment, Filipino Americans in elected posts, Filipinos in Illinois politics
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