Incumbent Oak Park township trustee Eric Davis was reelected by a razor thin margin of 24 votes, narrowly edging out newcomer Jacquelyn Rodriguez in what proved to be the tightest Oak Park race to come out of the April 6 election.
“As with President [Joe] Biden, it was the mail in votes that made the difference,” Davis told Wednesday Journal.
The night of and in the days after the election, Davis and Rodriquez found themselves neck and neck each other for the fourth open township trustee seat with only a handful of votes determining who was in the lead at any given time.
“On election night, I was down eight votes,” Davis said. “Then a couple days later, I was up 34 votes, and then I was only up six votes and then 12 votes and it moved around some more and I ended up being up 24.”
The Cook County Clerk finally certified votes on April 27 concluding Davis won the fourth seat, receiving 5,608 votes, or 15.08 percent.
Along with Davis, Oak Parkers voted to reelect Ade Onayemi, who received the highest number of votes at 22.36 percent, and Margaret A. Trybus, who chalked up 15.92 percent of votes. Newcomer Tim Thomas also snagged a township trustee seat, securing 17.83 percent. Davis, Onayemi, Trybus and Thomas shared the Oak Park Community Service Party slate.
Rodriguez received 15.01 percent of votes, followed by Valerie Lester who came in sixth place with 13.8 percent.
Clarmarie Keenan was reelected as township supervisor and Ali Elsaffar was likewise reelected as township assessor. Gregory White was also reelected as township clerk, a role he’s held since first being elected in 1997. All three of those races were uncontested.
Despite her loss, Rodriguez found the slim difference in votes separating her from Davis heartening rather than dismaying.
“It’s kind of validating,” she said. “For somebody who many people didn’t know to be in the race against incumbents, it’s great to be that close.”
A first-time candidate for elected office, Rodriguez said her biggest fear was getting no votes at all.
“I really came close,” she said. “And knowing that maybe next time, if there is a next time, if I push a little harder, [a win] is totally possible.”
This will be Davis’s fourth term as a township trustee, having first been elected in 2005 and then again in 2009
With his newest win under his belt, Davis isn’t crowing over those who lost. Quite the opposite, actually – he’s singing their praises.
“Valerie Lester ran a fine race,” he said. “Valerie has already helped the township as she’s on our Senior Services Committee.”
Davis told Wednesday Journal Rodriguez ran a “terrific campaign.”
“It brought a lot of good things to the township and I think really made us all better,” he said. “I’m really grateful for her for energizing the election.”
Ultimately, that’s part of what Rodriguez wanted to do. Her decision to run for trustee was based on her desire to bring greater visibility to the township, as well as to promote democracy by giving voters the opportunity to choose from a pool of candidates, incumbent and otherwise.