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WGLT is committed to helping you become an informed voter ahead of the April 6 local election.

Cumpston, Ward Claim Victory in Bloomington's Ward 7 Primary

Mollie and Kelby
Mollie Ward, left, and Kelby Cumpston have claimed victory in Tuesday's primary for Bloomington's Ward 7 seat.

Unofficial results show Kelby Cumpston and Mollie Ward have won Tuesday's primary election for Bloomington's Ward 7 seat.

As the top two finishers of the five candidates, they've earned spots on the April 6 ballot. 

If the primary is any indication of what's ahead, the municipal election for Ward 7 could be close. Of the 301 votes tallied after polls closed at 7 p.m., 105 (34.9%) went to Cumpston, and 102 (33.9%) to Ward.

They were followed by Daniel Freburg, with 41 votes (13.6%), Coretta Jackson with 39 (12.6%), and June Peterson-Middlebrooks, 15 (4.9%).

Ward currently serves as alderman to the area in the northwest Bloomington. Her predecessor, Scott Black, announced in June he wasn't seeking re-election. But then he resigned as Ward 7 alderman in October and Mayor Tari Renner appointed Ward.

She is director of spirtual services at Carle Bromenn Medical Center and  Carle Eureka Hospital. 

On Tuesday night, she said she was thrilled and excited to have earned a spot on April's ballot.

Ward and her team have worked hard on the campaign, she said, so she's excited for the win and the chance to continue being a voice for people in Ward 7.

"The results show our neighbors on the west side clearly have confidence in the work that I've been doing on the council, and want to see me continue in that role," she said.

Ward said she's not a one-issue person, and recognizes the demands of day-to-day governing require her to be nimble to shift focus as needed.

But she does want to make the Bloomington community a healthier place -- in terms of physical health but also economically and with infrastructure, she said.

Ward said decades of being a community activist have informally led her to this politcal role, that she's embraced.

Ward and Cumpston both bring backgrounds incommunity activism.

Cumpston, who is a project manager overseeing affordable housing construction, said being involved in community issues is what drew him to the race.   

On Tuesday night, he said earning a spot on April's ballot felt fantastic. He applauded his team for its dedication knocking on doors despite a pandemic, and extreme winter weather. 

But, on the other hand, Cumpston said he was disappointed such a small percentage of Ward 7 voters participated in the primary. This spring, he'd like to reach people who don't normally vote in elections and expand the public's participation in the political process.

Cumpston said one area he thinks needs attention in Ward 7 is expanding affordable housing. He credits his involvement in the People First Coalition, a slate of progressive candidates for Bloomington races, with helping him connect community activism with politics. That philosophy brings him to the housing issue ready to do more than make committees, and read studies and statistics on what isn't available, he said.

"I'm ready, and so is the People First Coalition ready, to hit the floor running. and actually put down policies, agendas, and different types of grant funding," to make change happen, he said. 

Cumpston also wants to see the Bloomington Council establish better relationships with the Normal Town Council and McLean County Board -- so they can work together as one community.

With about 4,500 registered voters living in Ward 7, the initial results translate to just under 6.8% voter turnout. The entire city has roughly 53,000 registered voters.

The low voter turnout didn’t surprise Tim Mitchell, executive director of the Bloomington Election Commission.

“Consolidated primaries are like this. Historically, they have lower participation than general elections,” said Mitchell.

Of the votes cast in the Ward 7 primary, 91 were absentee ballots. Mitchell said, adding that official winners won't be announced for another two weeks, after canvassing is complete. 

In Bloomington’s nine-ward system, odd-numbered wards have consolidated elections in odd-numbered years; and vice versa.

Five wards have races ths April; four are contested. But Ward 7 is the only one that warranted a primary, because more than four candidates threw their hats in the ring for that seat, Mitchell said.

Also on April 6, Bloomington voters will choose a successor to Renner, who's opted not to run for re-election. Voters will choose from Jackie Gunderson, Mike Straza and current Ward 3 alderman Mboka Mwilambwe.

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Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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