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Renner Wins 2nd Term; Incumbent Aldermen Hold On in Bloomington

Mayor Tari Renner won a second term Tuesday over conservative challenger Kevin Lower, as incumbents also held on in three wards across the city.

With all 52 precincts reporting late Tuesday, Renner won 56 percent of the vote to Lower’s 43 percent. Renner won by 1,394 votes, according to the Bloomington Election Commission. Voter turnout was 21.6 percent, slightly ahead of the last mayoral election in Bloomington.

Speaking to supporters on Tuesday night, Renner claimed victory and reiterated his central campaign theme—that the city is “on the move” and benefiting from his economic development initiatives and other measures. The college professor also praised Bloomington’s inclusiveness.

Renner told GLT that there was a pessimism-optimism divide between his campaign and Lower’s.

“Is there a metro city in the U.S. that has hunkered down into a corner in fear that has somehow grown their local economy? I’ve been involved in local government for over 30 years and I’ve never heard of a situation like that. You have to be proactive. You have to move your city forward. You can’t just say no.”

Renner thinks downtown redevelopment—and perhaps a hotel project—will move forward with new vigor following the election.

“I’m talking about it all the time and trying to leverage things all the time,” Renner said. “Obviously I’ve been distracted because I am a human being and I don’t have unlimited hours, so I’m not going to say that having a campaign wasn’t distracting from some things. But I don’t think there’s any question. We have a new council and new energy that I think will move us forward.”

Lower, who currently represents Ward 1 in south Bloomington on the council, was the second-place finisher in February’s five-way primary. The pilot and auto salesman—running on a back-to-basics spending plan for the city—was unable to build a large enough coalition of conservative voters to unseat Renner on Tuesday.

In his concession speech, Lower thanked his supporters.

“We came up a little short,” Lower said. “I think our voice is being heard. I think Mayor Renner understands that a very large percentage of this community sees things from a different viewpoint (than he does). I think he needs to know that he needs to represent the entire community.

“I hope I’ve made an impact,” Lower added. “I hope the council remembers many of the things I’ve brought up and talked about.”

On the Bloomington City Council, three incumbents claimed victory as well. Two new faces are also set to join the council.

In Ward 3 on the city’s east side, incumbent Alderman Mboka Mwilambwe held off three challengers and won with 50 percent of the vote.

In Ward 5 on the near east side, incumbent Alderman Joni Painter topped Lupe Diaz, 54 percent to 45 percent.

Incumbent Alderman Scott Black, who was essentially unopposed, won re-election in Ward 7 on the city’s west side.

In Ward 1 in south Bloomington (the seat being vacated by Lower), Jamie Mathy defeated Susan Feldkamp, 63 percent to 36 percent.

In Ward 9 on Bloomington’s east side, Kimberly Bray (44 percent) defeated Greg Rodriguez and Sheheryar Muftee. Incumbent Alderman Jim Fruin did not seek re-election to the Ward 9 seat.

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Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.
Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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