NORMAL — The last Bloomington-Normal mayor to wait through a prolonged election isn't hard to find.

He's still in office.

"I’m pretty sure The Pantagraph quoted me at the time: I said, as a political scientist, this is really cool," said Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner, a political science professor at Illinois Wesleyan University. "But as a candidate, it’s really nerve-wracking."

Renner finished 15 votes behind incumbent Mayor Steve Stockton in 2009 — 3,569 to 3,554. Four years later, he was easily elected, and again won on Tuesday.

In Normal, incumbent Mayor Chris Koos and challenger Marc Tiritilli will wait until April 18 for 35 absentee ballots to arrive, and possibly decide their contest. Koos leads Tiritilli 3,113 votes to 3,106, with a possible recount looming.

Renner went through the same process. He still knows the margin on election night — 11 votes more for Stockton — and in the absentee ballots — six for Stockton and two for Renner.

Facing two weeks until Stockton was to be sworn in and a 15-vote deficit with only 27 "spoiled" ballots — ballots thrown out that might have been counted in a recount — Renner opted to forgo a recount and concede the race.

"I would have had to receive a 16-vote margin out of that 27, and the likelihood of that in an election that is super close is very unlikely,” Renner said.

“In Chris Koos' case, it’s still single digits, but he’s in a stronger position than I think most people realize.”

Koos has said he'll pursue a recount if he comes up short after the absentee ballots are counted. Tiritlli favors one regardless.

Renner recalled the state Board of Elections ordered a re-canvassing that turned up no issues with the vote count, discouraging him from requesting a partial "discovery" recount, an inexpensive and fast measure.

He was told a full recount could have cost his campaign $15,000 to $20,000, he said.

Renner thinks dragging out the race also would have left Bloomington without a mayor, which he didn't want to do. He credits that decision for paving the way for his win in 2013.

“I know how destabilizing (not having a mayor) can be for a city, and I was running for mayor to make things better,” he said. “Obviously I gained a lot of name recognition. … I lost one (election) by 15 (votes) and won the next one by 1,500.”

This year's Normal race also mirrors 1960, when Normal Mayor Robert Randall beat Claude R. Coburn 959 votes to 952, said Bill Kemp, archivist/librarian at the McLean County Museum of History. That race had 1,911 total votes; this year, 6,316-plus.

Both men told The Pantagraph immediately after the election that they were inspired by the public's interest in it, according to archives provided by Kemp.

"People wanted a good contest, and that's what we had. For me, if you win you win; lose you lose," Coburn told The Pantagraph. "I pledge my support to the men elected. They will do a good job." 

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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