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For the third election in a row, the Village Manager Association has swept every open seat on the Oak Park village board, continuing a streak of dominance that has held since 2007. But it wasn't quite as easy this time around.
Incumbent Ray Johnson was the top vote-getter again, capturing roughly 26.6 percent of the vote for unprecedented third term in a row. Robert Tucker, a fair housing attorney, came in second, with some 25.3 percent of the pie, with 43 of 45 precincts reporting.
The VMA called the election at about 9 p.m., with the three winners popping a bottle of champagne to celebrate the win in their second-floor suite at the Carleton Hotel, before marching downstairs 10 minutes later to the tune of "We are the Champions" and a round of cheers.
"Honored and humbled," Johnson, 47, said when asked how he felt about winning a third term. "The voters have placed a lot of trust in our decisions, and I think it's important to call out that — whether people voted for us or against us or didn't vote — we have to move forward together. We have a lot of big challenges ahead."
The closest thing to a barn-burner was the competition for the third and final open spot on the board, between 32-year-old VMA newcomer Adam Salzman and independent Lynn Kessen, 46.
Salzman eked out a close victory, by about 769 votes, or about 3 percent of the vote. Sipping a glass of champagne, Salzman said the election was about easing the burden on taxpayers.
"This is about keeping Oak Park affordable, keeping the property tax burden in check so people can afford to stay here and not have to leave the community they love," he said. "That's the theme we've stressed all along, and I think it resonated with folks."
The VMA's campaign managers called the three elected trustees down to a Carleton ballroom around 9 p.m., but not before Tucker jokingly answered the phone with "Kyle's Pizza."
He also talked about keeping Oak Park economically diverse.
"When the taxes get so high, it drives people out who have stuck through Oak Park for years and years," Tucker said.
Kessen, 46, wasn't quite ready to call the race as of about 9:30 p.m., with a couple of precincts left to report. She was pleased with the "respectful" and "fair" tone of the campaign and said she'd consider running again after the reaction she received from voters.
"It's definitely been close, so I would probably be looking to throw my hat in the ring again in the future," she said. "In the meantime, I think I have a lot of good to give to the community, and I think I'll be seeking ways to put my energy that I was going to exert into the board to something else."
Eighty-year-old retired dentist and independent Lewis Carmichael finished fifth, with 8.1 percent of the vote.
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