After being swept out of four seats in 2005, the Village Manager Association’s slate of four candidates swept the longstanding Oak Park party back into power Tuesday night.

“It feels good,” said John Hedges, who won his race for a two-year trustee seat by a margin greater than 2-to-1 with 92 percent of precincts reporting. “I think we’re going to be able to do a lot of very positive, forward-moving things.”

Unofficial results showed Hedges (of the VMA-backed Citizens for Progressive Action party) leading with 4,249 votes, over opponents Annabel Abraham (Vision Community Action) 1,663, and Rose Meyer (New Leadership Party) 1,206, Tuesday as of 10:30 p.m.

The CPA’s four-year candidates faired just as well. Incumbent Ray Johnson led vote-getters with 4,360, followed by his running mates, Jon Hale, with 4,021, and Jan Pate, with 3,619.

The New Leadership Party’s Mary Shiffer was a distant fourth with 2,063 votes. The other two New Leadership candidates were furthest behind in the race: Barbara Dolan with 1,475 and Harvey Lyon with 1,133.

Incumbent Trustee Robert Milstein seemed assured of a loss with 1,815 votes, as did his running mates on the Vision Community Action slate: Jim Balanoff 1,614, and Gary Schwab 1,538.

The CPA party at the Carleton Hotel kicked off at about 8 p.m., with a poem by Doug Wyman that poked fun at other parties’ candidates.

“Everything they do helps us win/ Even their last-weekend spin,” Wyman said. Miniature brooms were passed around to celebrate the party’s sweep.

“I’m very humbled. I’m very excited. I’m very honored,” Jan Pate told the crowd.

After the rally, Hedges said the sweep and margin of victory should help bring confidence to business and retail investors. Johnson said that the results will mean an end to the attacks on business leaders. “That needs to stop,” he said.

But Johnson said that the margin was created by many more people than just business owners. And Hale said that people who did not vote for the CPA will still be heard.

“We are committed to listening,” Hale said. “We don’t have a monopoly on good ideas.”

Nile Wendorf and Brian Farrar, of the New Leadership Party, congratulated the VMA-backed candidates at the Carleton. “We’re obviously disappointed,” Wendorf said.

They would not comment on how the party might regroup, or whether the VCA needed to be brought back into their coalition to become effective, but said they would begin to re-examine the organization in the future. Wendorf said they are committed to the idea that Oak Park is better off with a two-party system.

Ralph Lee, who was celebrating his own victory in the District 200 school board race, expressed disappointment over the results of the Oak Park village trustee race. Lee, who is the New Leadership Party treasurer, said a major factor in the race was the NLP’s split with the VCA. But it was not the determining factor. Even with the votes added together, they would not have beat the VMA slate this time around. Combine that with the VMA’s financial edge and the race was decided. Because the NLP and the VCA both represented the “historic preservation” voters, he said, “You can’t split that part of the electorate and expect to win.”

Mary Shiffer, the top vote-getter for the NLP slate, described the campaign as “a very interesting process. We gave it our best shot, but we were outgunned in many ways.” Shiffer said everyone who heard their message agreed with it. They just weren’t able to get the message through to enough voters.

“Give the VMA credit for their organizational power and for getting their message out,” she said. Shiffer isn’t daunted, however. “It’s important for the voters to have a voice. We’ll be back. I’m psyched about 2009.”

Village Trustee Greg Marsey, the lone NLP member remaining on the board, said, “The people have spoken. It’s time to move forward.” He said he doesn’t know how the new board will work together, “but they’re all well-intentioned, good people with the best interests of the community at heart. That’s a good place to start.”

Pate said hard work and a talented campaign staff helped make the difference, but also that the NLP was hurt by resignations and some trustees’ “demeanor at the board table.”

“I think Oak Park is really proud of itself and wants to be proud of its elected officials,” Pate said.

Johnson said the VMA’s ability to reinvent itself after the last election was instrumental. “They really rebuilt the organization from the ground up,” he said. Focusing on a very positive message rather than on the personalities of their opponents also helped attract voters.

His own efforts to reach out, go door to door and communicate with citizens-something he’s done since being elected-helped earn him re-election votes, Johnson said.

Hale, who’s taught college courses on campaign strategy and helped write the party’s campaign plan, said people commented on how professionally it was run. “I think that’s some indication it was a pretty good plan.”

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

Results

Oak Park Village Board
4-year term: vote for 3
Votes Percent
Ray Johnson 4,360 20.15%
Jan Pate 3,619 16.73%
Jon Hale 4,021 18.58%
Robert Milstein 1,815 8.39%
Gary Schwab 1,538 7.11%
James Balanoff 1,614 7.46%
Barbara Dolan 1,475 6.82%
Harvey Lyon 1,133 5.24%
Mary Shiffer 2,063 9.53%
Precincts Counted: 59 of 64 (92.19%)

Oak Park Village Board 2-year term: vote for 1 Vote Percent
John Hedges 4,249 59.69%
Annabel Abraham 1,663 23.36%
Rose Meyer 1,206

16.94%

Precincts Counted: 59 of 64 (92.19%)

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