What was shaping up to be a straightforward two-way race for mayor of North Riverside in 2017 got turned on its ear on Dec. 19 when a third person filed nominating petitions seeking election to the village’s top office.
With less than two hours left on the final day to file, Marybelle Mandel submitted papers to run for mayor as an independent, a move that could sabotage the candidacy of her erstwhile political ally, H. Bob Demopoulos.
In a phone interview with the Landmark, Mandel denied having a falling out with Demopoulos, saying she decided to run “after numerous residents approached me and asked me to run on their behalf.”
Mandel said residents recognize her as an “independent thinker.”
Asked what she would be presenting as her main policy issues, Mandel declined to specify them, saying, “I’m working on it now.”
The move came as a surprise to Demopoulos, who said he found out about the filing on Dec. 21. He said he’d heard rumors that Mandel was thinking about throwing her hat in the ring, but didn’t know she’d gathered the signatures necessary to file papers.
“I don’t know the reasoning behind it,” Demopoulos said. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Mandel has made two unsuccessful bids to be elected as a village trustee. In 2013, she was part of a slate that ran against the majority VIP Party under the name, the Transparency and Accountability in Politics Party.
While Demopoulos was not part of that slate, he actively supported it and provided one of that slate’s most important policy issues – a program to replace the village’s private paramedic service provider with cross-trained union firefighter/paramedics.
The TAP Party, in fact, used Demopoulos’ statements regarding the paramedic contractor verbatim on its campaign website. Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI) responded by suing members of the TAP slate and Demopoulos for libel.
Both sides settled the case earlier this month after nearly four years in the courts. As part of the settlement agreement, the defendants were ordered to pay unspecified monetary damages and publicly apologize.
Asked if the result of the lawsuit might have played a role in Mandel’s decision to run against him, Demopoulos said he doubted it. Mandel, he noted, ran for trustee again in 2015 as part of the Save Our Firefighters slate that was put together by Demopoulos.
Mandel finished fourth in a six-person race for three trustee seats in 2015. Demopoulos won re-election as a trustee and the slate put a scare into the VIP Party, which looked to be headed to a defeat until totals from the final precinct put two of its candidates over the top.
With that result as a backdrop, Demopoulos felt Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr., who won election to that office as VIP’s candidate in 2013, would be vulnerable in his bid for re-election in 2017.
But Mandel’s entry into the race would appear to siphon off votes for Demopoulos, benefitting Hermanek.