History not on Ficarello’s side as vote count continues in sheriff’s race
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org March 19, 2014 8:54PM
Updated: April 21, 2014 6:59PM
Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots said she usually cautions candidates in close contests not to start celebrating until every vote is counted — two weeks after the election.
“The numbers could change,” she said. And that’s exactly what some candidates were hoping after Tuesday’s primary.
Nick Ficarello, one of two Republican contenders for sheriff, was not conceding the race though unofficial vote totals gave him 220 fewer votes than Ken Kaupas.
In Will County Board District 9, incumbent Diane Zigrossi, who was trailing Walter Adamic by 58 votes, said, “It is the way it is,” and did not expect the numbers to change in her favor.
Voots still had to tabulate 245 absentee ballots and process 132 provisional ballots — those in which voter registrations were questioned. A team of election judges will verify registrations and count those ballots April 1, she said. The primary vote will be canvassed and made official April 8.
The city of Aurora, which has its own election system for 5,700 voters in seven precincts in multiple counties including Will, also has 22 provisional ballots but no absentees, Voots said.
Is it mathematically possible to change the outcome of these two races?
“I really can’t say,” she said. “You really don’t know.”
In her experience as county clerk, though, the results haven’t changed based on yet-to-be-counted ballots.
“It’s never happened before, but anything is possible,” Voots said.
Those two races — the sheriff and District 9 board members — were the ones everyone was talking about Wednesday morning, she said. That, and a bit of a computer glitch that wasn’t resolved until late Tuesday night.
After all 303 precincts were counted, Voots’ team prepared to put in the early voting ballots, but the computer would not accept the results, she said. She basically started over, and fed all the memory cards from the computerized voting machines in all precincts back into the system “as an extra safety measure,” she said.
“What’s most important is that people trust the election process,” Voots said. “We could have been done by 9 p.m. but instead we were here till 11 p.m. I feel better that we did that.”
Regarding the tight sheriff’s race, Ficarello declined to comment, saying he was waiting for all ballots to be counted.
On his campaign Facebook page, he posted: “Thank you everyone for your continued support. We are waiting for absentee and provisional ballots to be counted for the final outcome of this race. Stay tuned ...”
Kaupas stopped short of claiming victory, saying he is “confident” that his lead will hold up when the final votes are counted.
“Neither my opponent nor I could have predicted such a close race,” he said.
Sgt. Mike Kelley, who emerged the winner in the three-way race for the Democratic nomination for sheriff, said he would not speculate on the Republican race and doesn’t care who his opponent is in November.
“I have my message and my platform, and that is not going to change,” he said.
The No. 1 issue is the budget, he said.
“The sheriff’s department has always been underbudgeted. I hope to be able to explain to the county board where the money is going and why we need it,” Kelley said.
Unofficial vote totals showed Kelley with 5,556 votes, Lt. Steve Egan with 4,226 and retired Lt. Ed Bradley, 4,104.
In the 9th District, which includes portions of Homer, New Lenox, Lockport and Joliet townships, Zigrossi finished last in a three-way Democratic race for two slots that saw newcomer Lauren Staley-Ferry as the top vote-getter with an unofficial 1,027 votes, followed by veteran board member Adamic with 807 and Zigrossi with 749. GOP candidate Annette Parker was unopposed and will face the two Democrats in November.
Though Zigrossi, the board’s Democratic caucus chairwoman, sounded as if she was conceding, Adamic said he was waiting until April 1. Zigrossi and Adamic, who ran as a team, said Zigrossi had a target on her back.
“This all came about because of the (county employees) strike. (Diane) was made the scapegoat,” Adamic said.
Zigrossi, chair of the board’s insurance and personnel committee, was involved in the contract negotiations. Staley-Ferry was heavily supported by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents Will County employees. Her father-in-law, District 13 county board member Mark Ferry, a member of the Steelworkers Union, also is on the insurance and personnel committee.
Staley-Ferry expressed appreciation for voters’ support and agreed that AFSCME’s backing was a key factor in her winning along with Ferry’s efforts.
“My father-in-law was absolutely a factor. I watched him work extremely hard to win his position on the county board,” she said. “It’s one of the reasons I wanted to get more involved in local politics. ... This campaign is about me wanting to make positive changes for the people in our communities. I was prepared to work with whoever advanced to the general election.”
Zigrossi said she knew she was targeted but that she and Adamic “ran a very ethical campaign.”
The new union contract will cost the county $6 million, and it is not sure where that money will come from, she said.
“We have so many obligations, and we don’t want to increase taxes,” Zigrossi said, adding that she and Adamic are fiscal conservatives who “always had the best interests of taxpayers at heart.
“It’s very sad. The taxpayers are the ones who lost to someone who is a bought-and-paid-for candidate,” Zigrossi said of Staley-Ferry.