URBANA – Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin easily defeated two challengers in Tuesday’s Democratic local election primary.
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Mayor Marlin won 1,845 votes, or 72.3% of the total, well ahead of Alderman Dennis Roberts, the 2nd-place finisher with 440 votes or 17.24%, and recent U of I graduate Andy Ma with 267 votes or 10.46%.
Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons says the totals could change, depending on how many of the roughly 1,300 outstanding mail-in ballots arrive at his office between now and when ballots are certified on March 9. But he says the number that do come in will almost certainly be less than the number sent out. (See the final unofficial tally for Champaign County from Tuesday night here.)
Marlin told reporters Tuesday night that her top priority in a second term would be getting the city back on its feet after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“And key to that,” said Marlin, “is getting our kids safely back to school, help businesses operate successfully in the post-pandemic environment, and work with our community partners to make sure we’re meeting fundamental needs like housing.”
Marlin said other priorities would include infrastructure upgrades, addressing structural racism and police reform.
Marlin does not support defunding the Urbana police department, a proposal brought up by rival candidate Andy Ma. But she says she’s considering new approaches to police work that could be done by others, such as the Open Door program. Still being put together, the program would set up teams of non-police professionals to help people suffering with mental health emergencies.
“And we’ll be focusing a lot on looking for alternative responses for people in emergency, in terms of our public safety response,” said Marlin.
Marlin thanked her rival candidates for raising important issues in the primary campaign: noting Ma’s attention to police reform and Roberts’ interest in historic preservation, and city design and construction issues.
“It’s hasn’t been a great time for progressiveness in this community, I would say,” commented Roberts, who gave up his city council seat to run for mayor. The 74-year-old Roberts noted the defeat of a slate of progressive candidates that included mayoral candidate Andy Ma and several city council candidates. None of the slate known as the “People’s City Council” won their primary contests. Roberts said their losses and his own showed the lack of interest among voters in supporting creative ideas for the city.
“There was just a lot of people, well, they’re not as concerned about visionary, creative thinking as being safe and secure, as they go forward without too much change or turmoil,” said Roberts, who has no plans to seek elected office again, although he hopes to stay active in community life.
Beyond the three Democrats in Tuesday’s primary, there are no other candidates running for Urbana mayor, so Marlin’s name will go on the April 6 ballot unopposed.
Also in Urbana, Democratic voters chose candidates in five of the city’s seven city council wards. Maryalice Wu in Ward 1 and Shirese Hursey in Ward 3 were re-nominated over their challengers. (Wu will run against Libertarian Adam Rusch in April). In Ward 2, Christopher Evans won over Christopher Hansen and recently appointed alderman Erik Sacks. (Evans will face Party for Socialism & Liberation candidate Colin Dodson in April). In Ward 5, Chaundra Bishop defeated Meghan McDonald for Dennis Roberts’ council seat. And in Ward 7, former Champaign County Board member James Quisenberry defeated incumbent alderman Jared Miller. Bishop and Quisenberry will both run unopposed in April.
Two city council seats that did not have primary contests, but will have contested races in the April 6 election. Democrat Jaya Kolisetty and Republican Mike Kobel are running for the Ward 4 seat currently held by Democrat Bill Brown who is not seeking reelection. And in Ward 6, William Colbrook, the only Republican on the Urbana City Council, is running against Democratic challenger Grace Wilken.
Urbana City Clerk Phyllis Clark, who came out of retirement after Charlie Smyth resigned as clerk for health reasons, received 1,635 votes and 64.17% of the total, defeating Champaign County Board member Titianna Ammons.
In Champaign, voters re-nominated Democratic township supervisor Andy Quarnstrom over challenger Rita Conerly. Quarnstrom faces Republican Karen Foster in April. Foster ran as a write-in candidate in the Republican primary, Champaign County’s only GOP candidate at the primary stage.
No Champaign City Council seats were included in Tuesday’s primary election. But the council’s five district seats are up for non-partisan election on April 6. In District 1, council member Clarissa Nickerson Fourman faces challenges from Davion Williams and former mayoral candidate Azark D. Cobbs. In District 3, Danny Iniguez and Matt Sullard are running for the seat currently held by Angie Brix, who is not seeing reelection. In District 4, Michael Foellmer is challenging incumbent Gregory P. Stock. Alicia M. Beck in District 2 and Vanna Pianfetti in District 5 are running for reelection unopposed.
In Decatur, a non-partisan city council primary whittled a field of 12 candidates down to six. The winners are: incumbents David Horn and Chuck Kuhle, Marty Watkins, former Decatur Park District police chief Ed Culp, Will Wetzel and Jacob Jenkins. The six will compete for three council seats in April. (See the final unofficial tally from the Macon County Clerk’s office here.)
The April 6 consolidated election will also include contests for several other local offices, such as township, school, park and community college boards. (The Champaign County Clerk’s office has an unofficial list of candidates in the election here.) The Champaign County April 6 ballot also includes a binding referendum, asking voters if they want to merge the county recorder of deeds office with that of the county clerk.
(UPDATE: This article was revised to include information about candidates for Champaign City Council and other offices running in the April 6 consolidated election. – Jim Meadows 2/24/21)