Two challengers who’ve criticized the direction of Uptown Normal redevelopment knocked off an incumbent Normal Town Council member Tuesday as they emerged as the top vote-getters in a crowded eight-way race.
With all precincts reporting late Tuesday, Stan Nord, Karyn Smith, and incumbent Kathleen Lorenz won election. Nord won 19.6 percent of the vote, Lorenz won 14.5 percent, and Smith had 14 percent. They unseated one-term incumbent R.C. McBride, who trailed with 12.8 percent of the vote. Council member Jeff Fritzen chose not to seek re-election, opening up the field to eight candidates (and a write-in).
The eight candidates bunched together politically in three camps. Nord and Smith aligned their campaigns, along with write-in candidate Karl Sila. Pat Turner, Joel Studebaker, and Alex Campbell also campaigned together. Normal Planning Commissioner Dave Shields rounded out the field.
Nord and Smith In Top 3
In what was an anti-incumbent year, Nord was the leading vote-getter.
"I think this is a national trend. The incumbents are the ones that got us into the situation that we're in. In Normal, we have amassed so much debt, so much debt over the short time we started taking on debt. And I think people are now waking up to the fact this is not sustainable, that this is going to come back and bite us with the population shrinking," said Nord.
Every first time candidate comes in contact with people they have not met or considered before. It's often a growth experience, and Nord said it was for him as well.
"It made me more aware of different needs in the town that I did not know about. Like veterans issues. A gentleman came up to me and asked why none of the candidates had said anything about veterans. And that was an eye-opening experience. He was absolutely right. None of us had anything. The special needs folks do need a voice. There are lots of different perspectives in the town that are needed," said Nord.
Nord spent Tuesday evening picking up his yard signs and not paying attention to poll results. He said he will schedule a victory and appreciation party later to thank all his supporters and volunteers. he said he would not have been able to do the campaign without his wife.
"I look forward to reintroducing myself to my two kids. I've been kind of distant," said Nord.
Smith said she sought a seat on the Town Council to help ensure a safe and healthy future for her teenage daughter, who is developmentally disabled.
Smith said her first steps included sitting down with City Manager Pam Reece to learn more about how town spending works. She said she also wants to get an understanding of where the town stands on the Trail East project and if it’s possible to “backtrack and try to save those three buildings" slated for demolition.
“I have got a lot to do, a lot to learn, and a lot of people to talk to to make sure I am understanding what is possible and see what is the consensus about what is important," Smith told GLT. "But most importantly, I want to make sure that people are represented in the actions of Normal Town Council that have felt neglected when current members have consistently voted unanimously on all motions when I know there is dissent among citizens of Normal against certain of their actions.”
Unseated Incumbent McBride
The current council, including McBride and Lorenz, has faced criticism over the Town of Normal’s work with private developers, including the financial incentives used to jumpstart projects in Uptown Normal. They’ve also been accused of not taking seriously the concerns of residents and critics.
Lorenz, who runs the nonprofit Leadership Illinois and is a business consultant, stressed the town’s focus is on “more than just Uptown” and there are five tax-increment financing (TIF) districts designated for economic development. McBride, who is GLT’s general manager, has touted successes such as landing Rivian, the switch to monthly utility billing, and the multifamily recycling ordinance.
Speaking Tuesday to his supporters in Uptown Normal, McBride said "it doesn't look good."
Noted his two oldest daughters were in the audience, saying, “Community service is important, so I hope that’s the takeaway. This is about community service. It is not about politics. And I think sometimes politics sneaks into the community service, and I think that’s unfortunate.”
“It is an interesting time to be up for elected office," McBride added. "It is just an interesting time. And I think when you have this many candidates things get a little bit unpredictable. And frankly, there is a real appeal to negativity right now. And unfortunately I think that example is being set in the highest office in the land. And you can say things, and the facts don’t necessarily have to check out. But, that’s fine. And I certainly wish our winners tonight the absolute best and it is now their responsibility to keep Normal moving forward with all of the success that it has.”
Video: Watch McBride and Lorenz speak to supporters Tuesday night.
Lorenz said she was a bit surprised by some of Tuesday's results. She'll be returning to the Town Council for a second term.
“We’ve got to get to work," Lorenz said. "And I look forward to working with the new council, and I look forward to representing the views of those of you in this room and those of you who re-elected me for another four years."
Coming Up Short
Shields also thanked his supporters.
“The only thing that changes for me is I can add ‘candidate’ to my resume. Tomorrow, I am good," Shields said.
Turner, Studebaker, and Campbell all came up short. Campbell would've likely been the first Illinois State University student ever elected to the Town Council.
“People came out to vote for Joel (Studebaker) and Pat (Turner) and I think that shows that there’s still a need in this community in a lot of different areas like affordable housing, student representation, more bus routes. Those kind of things still matter, and they’ll continue to matter no matter what the outcome of this election is," Campbell said.
Added Turner: “We have to be inclusive for all. We have to represent all of our citizens, and I’ll continue to do that.”
Studebaker said he took responsibility for "not making a clear enough case" for why he was the right person to champion certain issues.
“I still stand with people in this community who have felt unheard for too long," Studebaker said. "I think what the results tonight clearly show is that a lot of people are unhappy with the way things have been. When incumbents lose, that tends to be what happens."
There are seven members of the Normal Town Council, including Mayor Chris Koos.
The new council members will be sworn in May 6.
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