The Village Manager Association, which has slated nearly every Oak Park village board memberâ€"and every village presidentâ€"elected in its 52-year history, lost big on Tuesday night.
David Pope, who bolted the VMA selection process and ran as an independent candidate, beat out New Leadership Party (NLP) opposition candidate Robert Milstein 3,988 to 3,441, according to vote counts as of 9:45 p.m. Tuesday. VMA-slated candidate Diana Carpenter, who ran on the Oak Park First slate, came in over 1,000 votes behind Milstein, pulling in 2,140.
Meanwhile, the NLP enjoyed a clean sweep with its three trustee candidates preparing to take over as many empty seats at the village board table, leaving Ray Johnson as the only sitting VMA-backed trustee.
At the Carleton Hotel Tuesday night, Carpenter told a crowd of supporters that she was "shocked as could be," and voiced bitter disappointment.
"Single issue voters and angry people will not be allowed to take over Oak Park. People have worked too hard for more than 30 years to allow lies and deceit to win," she said. "We will continue because we are better and more knowledgeable."
Though he lost to Pope, Milstein said he was pleased with the overall election results, and called the NLP victory the "end of an era."
"History's been made. The VMA will not be a majority," Milstein said, adding that he believes he can work effectively with Pope.
"We're not going to be obstructionist. [Pope] has run a dignified campaign. I will work with him 100 percent," he said.
Pope also said he had confidence he could work with the NLP candidates, saying he was excited that his "message resonated with so many people."
"I'll move forward in a way that respects core values and get us to a point where we can make decisions that are really in the best interest of Oak Park," he said. "I think everybody will come in with a desire to work together effectively."
In the race for three open village board seats, Greg Marsey won the most votes, at 5,024, followed by Geoff Baker, with 4,877 and Martha Brock with 4,723. VMA candidate Dorothy Reid came in fourth, with 4,347, followed by Mas Takiguchi at 4,189, and Ray Barbosa at 3,549.
Brock said Tuesday night she was excited to begin her term.
"It feels really great to be able to finally officially be able to work on behalf of the people. It feels great to be able to do it in the capacity where people have voted for you to do it," she said. "We won three seats, we put a message out there that we wanted to work for the village, people heard it from our hearts, and the people voted for us to do that."
Top vote getter Marsey said the sweep was a "big surprise."
"The organization that we ran against has, for the past 52 years, had a virtual lock on political power," he said. "A majority of votes on this board is a huge upset. I am very gratified and very proud of the organization that got us this victory."
On the VMA's future in the wake of Tuesday's upset, organization President Gene Armstrong said "we'll have to sort that out."
"There was more energy and effort put into this campaign since probably [former village presidents] Barbara Furlong or Sara Bode were elected. What I see is that more people voted than in prior elections," he said.
On Pope's victory, Armstrong said, "he could not have won unless he had made inroads into the traditional VMA base."
"I don't know that that means that Carpenter would have won, but I do know that if he had not siphoned off the traditional VMA vote by deliberate tactics, that he would not have won," Armstrong said. "Pope was able to maintain whatever personal constituency he had and made a conscious effort to target the traditional VMA base."
â€¢ One VMA-slated candidate who won big on Tuesday, however, was current Village Clerk Sandra Sokol, who will serve another four years. She beat out NLP candidate Sharon Patchak-Layman with an unofficial tally of 5,733 to 3,587.
â€"Bob Skolnik and Melissa Lou
contributed to this report.