Villa Park Village President Tom Cullerton unseated Republican state Sen. Carole Pankau in the race to represent the 23rd District centered in northern DuPage County, securing 51 percent of the vote to her 49 percent in unofficial totals from all precincts.
"I think people are looking for new faces in Springfield overall," Cullerton said. "I think what resonated with people is the work I've done in Villa Park and that I'm going to go down to Springfield and bring new ideas."
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The campaign was a tight one, during which Pankau's campaign accused Cullerton of misusing his village of Villa Park email account and cellphone for campaign purposes. Cullerton's campaign denied allegations of ethical wrongdoing and accused Pankau of avoiding opportunities for debates.
Cullerton, 43, landed his first elected office in 2005 when he became a Villa Park trustee. He then became village president in 2009 and his first term is set to expire in April. He said he intends to finish the term even as he begins serving as a state Senator, but he is unsure about seeking a second term as mayor.
He campaigned on a socially liberal but fiscally conservative platform, saying he was in favor of cutting wasteful spending and allowing gay marriage and abortion rights. He will serve a 4-year term.
"We've got to make Springfield far more efficient," Cullerton said. "If you make that more efficient, you'll at least start to break down some of the costs of doing business with the government."
He said his record of cutting costs, bringing in business and building infrastructure in Villa Park will guide him to pursue the same aims in the state legislature.
"I see how towns manage money," Cullerton said during the campaign. "The state needs to pay its bills first."
Cullerton defeated Pankau, 65, of Itasca, who had represented the district since 2005. Her political career lasted almost 20 years at the state level after several years as a Keeneyville Elementary District 20 school board member and DuPage County Board member.
When Cullerton is sworn in, he will represent all or parts of Bartlett, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Itasca and Villa Park in the 23rd District.