BLOOMINGTON — Incumbent Mayor Tari Renner and Alderman Kevin Lower are preparing for the April 4 election after the men earned the right Tuesday to run for Bloomington mayor.
Renner received 3,667 (48.15 percent) votes and Lower, of Ward 1, pulled 1,450 (19.04 percent) votes. They were the top finishers in a five-person primary race. About 15 percent of the city's registered voters cast ballots.
Lincoln and the city of Washington also had primary races on Tuesday to determine names for the April ballot which, in addition to mayor, will include choices for alderman, school board, community college board and township positions.
"We have made great progress in fixing our streets and infrastructure. Our budget is stable, and we are growing the local economy in many, many ways," said Renner as he watched returns Tuesday night at Anju Above, 220 E. Front St.
"So I am very happy to receive this vote of affirmation by the citizens, but obviously you don't take anything for granted," he added.
Lower's campaign platform called for refocusing tax dollars on essential services such as public safety (police, fire and first-responders) and infrastructure. He also campaigned for putting a stop to public subsidies for of city-owned entertainment venues such as U.S. Cellular Coliseum and the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.
“Let’s roll up our sleeves. We’ve got a lot more to do,” said Lower about moving on to the April 4 election. “If anybody wants to join the team, we’d be happy to have them."
Speaking at his watch party at John H. Kraus Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 454, Lower said he voted early last week and spent the day of the primary at work, selling cars at Anderson Ford in Clinton.
“I don’t think most folks realize how much work goes into a campaign before Election Day,” he said.
Going into April 4, Renner, who teaches political science at Illinois Wesleyan University, said he wants to reach out to the people who did not vote for him to say, "What can I do to earn your vote?"
Lower and Renner beat three other candidates: former radio talk show host Ian Bayne, retired Bloomington firefighter Robert Fike and Ward 8 Alderman Diana Hauman.
Renner lost only one of the city's 52 precincts — Precinct 38 on city's northeast side, according to Bloomington Election Commission data. Fike won that precinct by 10 votes.
Both Renner and Lower were first elected to city offices in 2013— Renner as mayor and Lower as an alderman representing Ward 1 on the city's south side.
Renner wasted no time in taking on his remaining opponent.
"Alderman Lower has a literally zero record," said Renner. "He has never gotten an ordinance passed; not one. I've got hundreds passed. And he has never worked with his colleagues to try to even propose real solutions."
Other vote totals were: Bayne, 1,067 (14.01 percent); Fike, 788 (10.35 percent) votes; and Hauman, 643 (8.44 percent).
"Of course I am disappointed," said Hauman. "However, this campaign process for the mayoral primary will make me a stronger councilman so I won anyway.”
“The public spoke; they voted their conscience," said Fike. "I wish the top two vote-getters all the luck in the world and would do everything I can to help them to get a good mayor here in Bloomington because I am still a resident and will be for quite some time.”
Bayne could not be reached for comment, but on his Facebook page he posted: "I've only lived here in Bloomington for a little over two years. I am very humbled by the support during that time, on the radio and in this campaign, and sorry that we finished third in the race, killing any chance of commonsense conservative solutions to the problems in Bloomington.
"The liberal Republican political establishment aligned with the Democrat Party to push us out and succeeded. For that I am very sorry."
The 7,637 ballots cast accounted for 15.31 percent of the city's 49,870 registered voters.
BEC Executive Director Paul Shannon had anticipated a turnout Tuesday of about 15 percent, based on the city's consolidated elections typically drawing a voter turnout of 20 percent to 25 percent.
"So I would say as a primary with only the mayor's race, the turnout would go down some," said Shannon. "I guessed about 15 percent."
Election judges at First Baptist Church and St. John’s Lutheran Church said turnout was steady but slow all day.
“It’s exactly what I expected,” said Kathe Conley, a judge at St. John’s. “Obviously I wish it were a larger turnout, but I’m glad for the people who did come out to vote.”
Sue Anderson, a judge at First Baptist, said the only surprise was how many voters chose electronic ballots — perhaps because they knew this ballot would be simple, and it would be a good chance to take the plunge.
“I always vote. I had heard it’s a close primary,” said Megan Wood after voting at First Baptist.