Despite criticism about his two-year push to privatize the North Riverside Fire Department, Hubert Hermanek Jr. weathered a strongly contested mayoral race to win his second term as the village’s top official.
Unofficially, Hermanek walked away with a majority of the vote – 51.32 percent to defeat his two challengers, Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos and Marybelle Mandel.
“It’s very humbling,” said Hermanek in a phone interview late last Tuesday. “I couldn’t be more happy with the residents and their confidence in me.”
Demopoulos, whose slate of three trustee candidates two years ago narrowly missed pulling off a stunning upset by making the firefighter labor issue its No. 1 priority, finished third in the race for mayor with just 19.5 percent of the vote.
It would not have been out of the realm of possibility for Demopoulos to have beaten Hermanek in 2017. The privatization issue has been a loser in the courts for the incumbent mayor and legal costs related to the fire department labor strife are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I believe that the residents felt that even if they didn’t approve the solution of privatizing the fire department the rest of the village runs well,” Hermanek said. “We ran on our accomplishments, our record.”
But Mandel, a former Demopoulos political ally who ran alongside him in 2015, entered the race at the last minute. Her presence cost Demopoulos dearly, and Mandel ended up taking 29.2 percent of the vote.
While Mandel claimed she was in the race to win it, she clearly took votes away from Demopoulos. Her positions on village issues, from the fire department to reducing debt to bidding out contracts, were identical to Demopoulos’ platform planks.
In the end, Hermanek won with a majority of the vote, but Mandel’s presence made his re-election all the easier.
Unofficial results published by the Cook County Clerk’s Office showed that Hermanek carried all but one precinct in North Riverside. The precinct he lost was Riverside Township Precinct 13, which is bounded by Burr Oak Avenue on the east, 9th Avenue on the west, Cermak Road on north and 24th Street on the south.
The precinct is home to both Mandel and Demopoulos, and both logged their highest vote percentages there. Mandel won the precinct with 41 percent of the vote and Demopoulos won 23.2 percent in that precinct, but finished third; Hermanek cleared 35.8 percent in that precinct.
The only other precinct in the village where it was close was Riverside 12, which is mainly the part of the village south of 26th Street. Elsewhere, Hermanek collected around 60 percent of the vote. VIP’s stronghold remains west of First Avenue.
Voter turnout was strong for a village election at 39 percent. In 2015, turnout was 36 percent.
Demopoulos’ running mates on the MVP Party slate fared no better against the VIP slate of incumbent Joseph Mengoni and newcomers Theresa “Terri” Sarro and Fernando Flores.
VIP’s trustee candidates won by a margin of about 2-to-1 over the MVP trustee slate of Kevin Melvin, Pricilia Runquist and Lawrence Manetti.
“I think we anticipated a win, but I was a little nervous about Fernando not getting an endorsement [from the Landmark] and being a newcomer,” said Mengoni. “But the MVP candidates had nothing to bring to the table. I’m pleased with the outcome.”
The biggest margin of victory, however, came in the race for village clerk, where incumbent VIP candidate Kathy Ranieri easily overcame the challenge of MVP’s Virginia Rodriguez, winning by a margin of 68.1 percent to 31.9 percent.