The Peoria mayoral race is still too close to call. Jim Montelongo leads Rita Ali by just 73 votes in the race to become Peoria's next mayor, with 100% of precincts reporting.
But vote-by-mail ballots arriving over the next two weeks could change the tide of the race yet.
Peoria County Election Commission Executive Director Tom Bride says up to 675 Peoria vote-by-mail ballots could still be returned, though he doesn't expect to receive all of them back.
As long as those ballots are postmarked on or before April 6, they will be counted as long as they arrive before April 20.
At the end of the night, Montelongo led Ali, 7,983 to 7,910 votes. Just over 16,000 votes were cast. Voter turnout was 17%.
Montelongo thanked his supporters last night, but stopped short of declaring victory.
"We're definitely very excited to see what the results are. But yeah, knowing there's still a lot of absentee votes out there," Montelongo said. "I'm just very thankful for everybody who got me here, all my supporters who helped me. And I'd just like to congratulate Rita for running a very good campaign, as well."
Ali led Montelongo for most of the evening through large leads among mail-in and early voters, but her margins steadily decayed as Election Day votes were counted - an area where Montelongo led by about 900 votes.
"We knew it was going to be close. We knew that as we got closer to that fifth cumulative batch (of results) that it was going to be very close, and it is as expected," said Ali. "So at this point we have to be patient and we have to wait for every vote to be counted."
Ali says she isn't planning to concede while so many votes are still outstanding, especially given her lead of 568 absentee ballots on Election night.
"That's why I am encouraged. I was 58%, up, and I think the combined early and vote-by-mail. I can't remmeber the exact percentage for vote-by-mail, but I was certainly higher," she said.
Montelongo is a three-term councilman and CEO of Advanced CADCAM Service Corporation, an engineering firm. He said he will just "play it day by day" as the remaining votes are counted, and added he was encouraged by the number of voters who cast ballots.
"I think that says a lot. People are really concerned (about) where our city's at," said Montelongo. "I don't know exactly what the total number is, but it surely shows tonight (in) the number people that came out."
Ali is the vice president of workforce and diversity at Illinois Central College, a job from which she pledges to retire to become a full-time mayor. She was elected to an at-large seat in 2019 after narrowly losing the 5th District race to Denis Cyr two years earlier.
Ali said she has "been through this before" with seeing an Election Night advantage reversed, noting she led Cyr by three votes on Election Night but lost by one vote when the results were certified.
The Peoria City Council will see at least 2 new members, with Denise Jackson replacing Denise Moore in the 1st District after a decisive victory, and Andre Allen filling the vacancy left by Montelongo in District 4. Ali would remain an at-large councilwoman if she loses the mayoral race.
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