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Motley carves out convincing mayoral primary win in Waukegan

Waukegan-02/26/13 Tues./Onan Storage 3500 Sunset Ave. Wayne Motley reacts good news during Tuesday mayoral election. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

Waukegan-02/26/13, Tues./Onan Storage 3500 Sunset Ave. Wayne Motley reacts to good news during Tuesday mayoral election. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 28, 2013 2:20AM

WAUKEGAN — On an election day hammered by half a foot of snow and 35 mph winds, City Clerk Wayne Motley carved out a nearly 200-vote victory Tuesday over 1st Ward Ald. Sam Cunningham in the Democratic primary for mayor, a contest that saw only 11.3 percent of registered voters make it to the polls.

With all 47 precincts reporting and early-voting ballots included, unofficial returns had Motley with 1.505 votes (36.2 percent) to 1,345 for Cunningham (32.6 percent) and 1,307 (31.4 percent) for state Sen. Terry Link, who was targeting the mayor’s office three months after winning re-election to the Senate.

All told, 4,157 ballots were cast at polling places on Tuesday, compared to the 6,017 seen in the February 2009 Democratic primary for mayor. According to the Lake County Clerk, there were 36,767 registered voters in Waukegan one month before primary day.

Motley will face independent candidates Susana Figueroa and incumbent Robert Sabonjian in the April 9 consolidated election. Speaking via cellphone from a victory rally with 150 supporters at a Sunset Avenue office, Motley said he felt the night would be his when early returns showed him in the lead, particularly on the city’s North Side.

“All the hard work, dedication and commitment came to fruition tonight. It wasn’t me who won this tonight — it was the people who want to see change in this community,” said Motley, adding that “I walked every day and knocked on doors every day,” and he expected strong support from voters in the 3rd, 7th, 8th and 9th wards.

In the Democratic race to succeed Motley as city clerk, his running mate, former Lake County Coroner Artis Yancey, came out on top of a field of six candidates with 1,389 votes (34.2 percent) with all totals counted. Former Waukegan Park District board member Janet Kilkelly was in second with 1,195 votes (29.5 percent), followed by Thomas J. Koncan with 611 votes (15 percent), Elroy Reed with 542 votes (13.3 percent), Germain Castellanos with 256 votes (6.3 percent) and Cameron S. Harju with 58 votes (1.4 percent).

If Yancey maintains his lead, he would move on to face independent candidate Mark Drobnick, who ran for clerk as a Democrat in 2005 and finished behind Motley with 39 percent of 6,000 votes cast.

Any impact that the weather had on turnout started when snowfall began around noon in Lake County. Link’s campaign Facebook page announced prior to the storm’s arrival that members of the International Association of Firefighters Local 473, which endorsed Link, would transport voters to the polls.

At 3 p.m., a voter at Precinct 360 at North Elementary School reported that she was only the 150th voter to cast a ballot out of 1,099 registered voters in the precinct.

Unofficial storm totals one hour before the polls closed at 7 p.m. had 6.5 inches of heavy, wet snow in Waukegan.

At around 5 p.m., Lake County Clerk Willard Helander reported via Twitter that “voting slowed about 3 p.m. to a crawl ... little wonder. Now we are sending staff to dig out cars” at polling places.

Asked if he felt the weather affected the turnout, Motley said, “I don’t think it had a really big impact. People had already made up their minds to head out and vote.”

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