Editorial: Candidate numbers, diversity a win for the suburbs
The polls are closed, the votes largely tallied.
Newly elected and re-elected mayors, school board members and others have celebrated their victories. Disappointed opponents have mulled their losses.
Ultimately, however, suburban voters won at the ballot box Tuesday -- and they did so before they even cast their votes.
That's because the 2019 election offered voters more choices, more say in who will guide their boards and councils over the next few years.
• For the first time in a decade, more local races were contested this year than in the previous municipal election. On average, nearly 37 percent of Tuesday's suburban races were contested in Cook, DuPage, Kane and Lake counties this election, according to a Daily Herald analysis of election data.
That's an improvement, the analysis showed. From 2009 to 2017, contested races in those four suburban counties fell from about 45 percent to barely 30 percent.
"There's a lot more activism and a lot more youthful activism," former Cook County Clerk David Orr told reporter Jake Griffin.
• That "youthful activism" also played out at the polls Tuesday.
At least 10 candidates under age 30, and another eight under 40, were on suburban ballots. One -- Gurnee village board candidate Matthew Duray -- barely made the age cutoff, turning 18 just two days before the election.
Vincent J. Torossy, a 26-year-old candidate seeking a seat on the Wauconda Unit District 118 school board, summed it up well: "Young candidates should be welcome additions to any local office," he said in a recent article. "If there is a passion ... why not pass the torch on to those hungry and wanting to make a positive impact within their communities?"
• The candidate field appeared more diverse than in recent years, perhaps spurred by the 2018 midterm elections in November.
Ekwutosi Ufodike, whose father is Nigerian, shared with Daily Herald reporter Elena Ferrarin that people told her she's "crazy" to run for village board in the largely white suburb of Hawthorn Woods.
"Even though we may not look the same," she said, "we believe in the same things."
When Tuesday's election results become official, the political landscape will have shifted a bit. We thank the candidates -- whether they've won or lost -- for seeking to serve their communities and caring enough to jump into the sometimes ugly election fray.
We only wish more would do so. There are still too many uncontested races and, as Griffin's analysis showed, there are still more than 10 percent of suburban races without enough candidates to fill all the positions up for election.
In the coming days, Tuesday's turnout numbers will be examined and evaluated. No doubt, they will be lower than we had hoped. But ballots that offer us more choices -- and election battles that draw us into discussions of how to better our communities -- are wins for all of us.