Runner-up in Rolling Meadows mayoral race wants a primary next time
On the heels of a contentious four-way mayoral election in Rolling Meadows, the second-place finisher has proposed a referendum to establish a city primary election, in which the top two vote-getters would move on to a runoff.
Alderman John D'Astice's proposal would let voters decide at the ballot box if they want to change the way local elections are run so that any elected city official would have to earn more than 50% of the vote, instead of just a plurality. The proposed rules would affect municipal elections in which three or more candidates run.
D'Astice took 25% of the vote in the April mayoral election, behind the winner, Joe Gallo, who finished with 36%. Behind them were Dave Whitney with 21% and incumbent Len Prejna with 18%.
The theory is that since no one captured a majority, voters would return for a general election between the top two finishers, much like Chicago's system. Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates also have a primary system, though there haven't been enough candidates in recent years to trigger such an election.
"It has nothing to do with who won this time," D'Astice said Tuesday night during a city council committee meeting that grew heated. "It's a matter of: What should we allow the people to do? What do they want to do? And that's why we would offer them a referendum."
D'Astice, who said several residents have asked him about the possibility of a primary system, suggested voters decide on the March 2020 ballot.
Gallo questioned the potential cost to the city of holding two elections -- a primary followed by a general -- and sought statistics from D'Astice about what the potential voter turnout would be for a runoff. In April, 14% of registered Rolling Meadows voters cast ballots.
"We only had 2,800 residents participate in our elections," Gallo said. "If you wanted to come back to me or this council and say that after the initial election occurs then a runoff election takes place and you have a 70% attendance rate, then that's significant."
New Alderman Jon Bisesi, who won a close three-way race for Ward 5 alderman, said the primary system could be a good idea in some form, but he also expressed some skepticism and sought more information before making a decision.
"I don't see outside of the election we just had -- particularly the mayor's race where we had four candidates -- where this has ever been an issue in the past," Bisesi said. "I don't know that we can actually foresee that it's going to be an issue in the future."
Aldermen agreed to have another committee discussion after the city staff does additional research and reports back.
Before the council discussion Tuesday, Gallo sought to pull the item from the agenda. D'Astice, shortly after the election, had asked the city staff to place the matter on the agenda.
Unlike other items aldermen discussed, Gallo said, the referendum topic was devoid of data or statistics to help them make a decision. D'Astice used parliamentary procedure to allow the discussion to occur.