NORMAL — Even after the election, the two candidates for Normal mayor continued to disagree Wednesday.
The day after incumbent Chris Koos and Marc Tiritilli received 3,113 votes and 3,106 votes, respectively, in a race still too close to call, Koos said voter apathy and fatigue contributed to that, while Tiritilli said it shows voters want change.
The heart of the disagreement is voter turnout: Koos said a lower-than-usual percentage showed likely voters stayed home, while Tiritilli said a higher total number of voters showed residents were energized by the campaign.
The percentage of vote turnout in McLean County, except Bloomington, was 18.27 percent, 1.5-point drop from April 2013's city election. The number of total votes cast for Normal mayor, however, jumped from 4,477 in 2013 to 6,316 this year.
“The margins in the last couple elections (for mayor) had been much wider. ... I think this was people speaking up whose preferences are not represented in the way the council has been voting,” Tiritilli said. "The makeup of the council tends to be unanimous on each decision, but the result clearly showed there are mixed feelings in the community.
"Clearly there are as many people who want to see a different direction."
Koos said the outcome of a mayoral race doesn't determine the direction of a community also represented by six council members. Incumbents Kevin McCarthy and Scott Preston easily retained their seats Tuesday.
“A lot of people think the mayor has a lot more power than a mayor does in a council-manager form of government,” Koos said. “My council is pretty unified on the direction we’re going."
Koos said he encountered possible voters who were confident in his victory and might have opted to stay home.
Koos defeated Victor Conner by a margin of 58 percent to 37 percent in a three-way race with JeVaughn Martin in 2013 and beat Andrew Matthews by 60 percent to 40 percent in 2009. In his first election as mayor, in 2005, Koos beat Jeff Fritzen by only 200 votes.
"(Voter fatigue) is something that crossed my mind, too,” said Koos, who has been mayor since 2003. “It’s something I thought about before I decided to run for another four years. I wondered if people were sick of me.”
He said the attention given to Bloomington's election might have taken away from Normal's as well. Mayor Tari Renner defeated Ward 1 Alderman Kevin Lower in a contentious contest, and five alderman faced challengers, though one of them had an opponent who was deemed ineligible to serve.
“I think a lot of the media focused on what was happening in the Bloomington election. It was a more contentious election with five (primary) candidates for mayor and multiple candidates in each ward. It kind of drew attention away from the Normal race,” Koos said. “We kind of felt that going in. We thought that would affect voter turnout.”