By Anna Lothson
If dollars were votes, the race between newly elected Village President Anan Abu-Taleb and his opponent, John Hedges, wouldn't have been much of a contest.
Abu-Taleb snagged 58 percent of the vote, but he also raised and spent more than three times the amount Hedges' Oak Park Together committee expended. Abu-Taleb's campaign costs also included a hefty amount from his own wallet.
According to statements available on the Illinois Board of Election's website, Abu-Taleb raised more than $72,000, including sizable donations from outside the state. That number also included $23,000 Abu-Taleb donated to his campaign.
The Oak Park Together slate raised $21,229, which included a $3,500 loan from the Village Manager Association that was later repaid.
Abu-Taleb's largest single donation was $12,000, which he made to the campaign on April 4, just five days before Election Day. His campaign also received $8,000 in contributions between April 6 and 8, as Abu-Taleb made his final push for voters.
The Illinois Board of Elections report doesn't include expenses reported after March 31.
The $72,000 raised by Abu-Taleb is above the average spent on Oak Park campaigns but it nearly matches the amount raised in two previous campaigns over the past decade – once by the VMA and once by an independent slate challenging the VMA.
While the bills of the Oak Park Together committee reflected more traditional expenses, Abu-Taleb spent a substantial amount on political tactics unique to his campaign.
For example, the VMA-backed Oak Park Together spent $848 for its website, $3,200 for printing and brochure costs and a little more than $2,000 for yard signs. The remainder of reported expenses was for newspaper ads and lease payments for the committee's campaign headquarters.
Abu-Taleb's expense report, however, includes $4,500 for a political consultant, $1,500 for graphic design work, roughly $2,400 for yard signs, and around $600 for promotional items. Abu-Taleb's expenses also included odds and ends like $188 for Dunkin Donuts and $542 for Facebook ads.
Other large expenses included close to $4,000 in newspaper ads; the Oak Park Together committee spent a little more than half that amount. Abu-Taleb's campaign also forked out $7,175 for a fundraiser at his restaurant, Maya Del Sol, and $11,156 for direct mailing pieces.
Abu-Taleb's itemized individual contributions between Jan. 1 and March 31 totaled $27,785 from 79 contributions. The largest contributors besides Abu-Taleb himself were members of the Gearen family who are related to Abu-Taleb through his wife. A total of $3,000 was given by Thomas Gearen and Paul Gearen from Park Ridge.
His campaign also generated roughly $6,000 from out of state, including two $2,000 donations from contributors in Minnesota and Michigan.
Abu-Taleb's campaign also received a donation $250 from both outgoing River Forest Village President John Rigas and Jerry Delany, chairwoman for the Democratic Party of Oak Park. From the names listed on the reports, it also appears as though a few thousand dollars were also contributed from family members of Abu-Taleb.
His campaign funds, however, didn't stop coming in by the April 9 Election Day, as $3,000 more were recorded as being received post-election. Mary Jo Schuler, co-owner of Marion Street Cheese Market, gave $1,000 on April 15 and Matthew Connelly, an attorney from Riverside, gave $2,000 on May 9.
Oak Park Together's itemized list totaled $10,284 from 29 contributions, with two donations reaching $1,000. While Abu-Taleb had many contributions from outside Oak Park, the Oak Park Together committee received mainly local funds, including $1,000 from Willis and Shirley Johnson, owners of the Lake Theatre.
Current village board trustees who were listed as contributors to Oak Park Together included Glenn Brewer ($160), Ray Johnson ($250) and Collette Lueck ($365). Hedges, who earned 42 percent of the vote, gave $600 to the campaign.