On February 28, voters in Aurora will whittle down the number of candidates running for mayor of Illinois’s second-largest city.
There are four official candidates in the Aurora mayoral race. A fifth announced candidate withdrew in December. A primary is supposed to be unnecessary if there are fewer than five candidates, but Aurora Election Commission officials say several people indicated they will run as write-in candidates, pushing the potential number on the ballot past the trigger point for a primary to be held. The officials also say that only two candidates will advance to the April 4 general election.
The write-ins are little known and have not taken part in any forums. They are not expected to figure significantly in the race. All four candidates named on the ballot are well-known locally. Their expressed views on the city’s future strike similar notes.
The challenge for each has been to differentiate him – or her -- self from the other candidates and make the case why she – or he -- has what the city needs. That was the theme of a public forum held recently at the Fox Valley Park District’s Prisco Community Center.
Richard Irvin has been on the Aurora City Council as Alderman at Large since 2007. Before that, he ran for mayor in 2005 -- a race he lost to Tom Weisner. A lawyer in private practice, Irvin also worked for a time as a prosecutor for the Kane County State’s Attorney. If elected, he would be Aurora’s first African-American mayor.
At the forum, Irvin said one thing that distinguishes him from the other candidates is that, despite his years as an alderman, he is not “government.”
“I’m the only one up here that, for the last 14 years my full-time job has been business. So what I want to do is bring my ability to successfully run a business to the city of Aurora,” he said.
Irvin also pointed to his record as a combat veteran in the first Gulf War, along with his service to the community, as demonstrating his leadership qualifications to be mayor.
Richard Guzman has been the Aurora mayor’s assistant chief of staff since 2011. He also spent eight years working for the State of Illinois, in the Governor’s Office and the Department of Corrections Office of Re-entry Management. He also is a lawyer. If elected, he would be Aurora’s first Hispanic mayor.
Guzman said at the forum that what sets him apart is his proven ability to get things done. He highlighted several recent examples, including the transformation of a long-dormant facility into a senior living center.
“Being a leader is about being able to bring people together and deliver effective results. And I’d invite anybody to talk to the developers of the St. Charles Hospital who just revitalized one of our most historic structures downtown. And they’ll tell you that project wouldn’t have happened without my leadership,” he said.
Guzman also pointed to his work with Emmanuel House, the nonprofit he and his wife founded to help families achieve home ownership.
Linda Chapa LaVia has served as a Democratic State Representative for parts of Aurora since 2003. If elected, she would be the first Hispanic -- and the first woman -- to hold the office.
At the forum, Chapa LaVia said that, while good things were happening in the city, much more was needed; and that’s why she is running.
“I lead a rock-solid commitment to transparency, accountability and ethics in the city. We need an economic development and jobs plan that’s going to be for the whole entire city, not just the downtown, and we need a sustainable budget,” he said.
Chapa LaVia said her record in the Legislature shows her ability to help the community in a variety of ways, from getting funding to establishing grant and tax-credit programs to promote development.
Mike Saville has served as the city’s 6th Ward Alderman since his appointment in 1985. That followed five years on the Aurora Planning Commission.
Saville said anybody can say they’re a leader. But if you want to know what sort of mayor he’d make, consider his record.
“Past is prologue. So go to my website, mikesavilleformayor.com, and look at exactly what I’ve done. Everything that I’ve done – all the resolutions, all the ordinances, all the policies that I’ve made, is on there for you to look at -- is there for you to look at,” he said.
And Saville said he has many more ideas to help the city, given the opportunity.
The race has been generally polite, although Chapa LaVia got some heat early on for a donation to her campaign from Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. She has resisted efforts to tie her to the dysfunction in Springfield, saying she’s just worked with the system that exists -- and, anyhow, she’s running for mayor, not governor.
Chapa LaVia has gathered the most high-profile endorsements, from Speaker Madigan, Senator Dick Durbin, and other members of the Democratic establishment, along with a number of area unions. Guzman has the backing of two of the city’s former police chiefs and a former fire chief, among others, while Irvin touts a long list of community members in his corner, and Saville, fellow Alderman Juany Garza.
All of the candidates list economic development as a top priority. All say Aurora was well-led during Tom Weisner’s eleven and a half years as mayor, but they all also say it’s time to “take the city to the next level.”
All say fighting crime and supporting the schools is important, and all see the city’s diversity as a strength. All agree on neighborhood policing and other measures aimed at helping police and the community live and work together. And all say Aurora’s best days are ahead.
The question for the voters -- first in the primary, and then the general election -- will be, which one is the best person to lead them there?