Antonio "Tony" Santucci reacts to being the top vote-getter in a 7-way race for three seats on the North Riverside Village Board during the North Riverside United slate's election night party at Tipster's Village Pub on April 4. | Bob Uphues

Four years ago, Marybelle Mandel cruised to her first term as a North Riverside trustee, besting a field of six candidates by a wide margin, a night so humbling to the VIP Party that it would collapse and disappear within a year.

But whatever connection Mandel had with voters in 2019, it appears to have vanished in 2023.

Updated unofficial vote totals with all four precincts reporting as of April 10 show that the VIP Party’s successor coalition, North Riverside United, swept all three trustee seats up for election.

Retired police officer Antonio “Tony” Santucci, in his first campaign for office, amassed 760 votes to lead the field, followed by his slate mates, incumbent Deborah Czajka (748) and fellow first-time candidate Nicholas Tricoci (676).

“I’m still in shock; The people have spoken, I guess,” said Santucci amid a throng of well-wishers at North Riverside United’s victory party at Tipster’s Village Pub. “I’ll do my best to help [residents] and do everything I can to keep this community great.”

Mandel topped her slate of three candidates, an apparent fourth-place finisher with 504 votes. Her running mates, Sandra Greicius and Joseph Maruska had amassed 460 and 407 votes, respectively, as of April 10.

Jose Del Angel, an independent who was making his first bid for elective office, had 248 votes. The Cook County Clerk will certify election results no later than April 25, so final vote totals may still change somewhat, but the margin of victory would appear to assure the result.

While the 2023 campaign was not as overheated as the mayoral election in 2021, where Mandel lost in a bid for the mayor’s position, it did contain plenty of negativity, particularly on social media, where Mandel supporters launched aggressive attacks against North Riverside United candidates.

Mandel called repeatedly for a forensic audit of village finances and late in the campaign seized on the village’s water rates as an issue, saying she would advocate leaving the Brookfield-North Riverside Water Commission in favor of McCook, implying it would lower rates.

While her surrogates blasted North Riverside United and the village’s administration for a lack of transparency, Mandel and her running mates avoided being pinned down publicly on issues. No one from the slate, which ran under the Municipal Integrity Party banner, sat for formal interviews with the Landmark, while the rest of the field did.

Marybelle Mandel greets a voter outside the North Riverside Village Commons about an hour prior to polls closing on April 4. | Bob Uphues

The only person from the slate to appear at a public candidate forum hosted at the Village Commons by the Landmark on March 22 was Greicius. On the morning of the event, Mandel issued a press release claiming, without any evidence, that the newspaper would not be impartial and that her slate’s candidates would be heckled by a rowdy audience.

Attempts to reach Mandel for comment on the election results were not successful.

Czajka, the only VIP Party candidate elected in 2019, was ushered into her third full term as trustee. She was initially appointed in 2013, replacing her ailing husband, Randall. She was elected to full terms in 2015 and 2019.

“We went to every door, whether they had a Mandel sign in front or not,” Czajka said. “We were prepared to address every issue without slamming [opposing candidates]. I think we were just being honest.”

Tricoci, who sits on both the North Riverside Police Pension Board and the North Riverside Fire Pension Board, said he felt North Riverside United’s decision to run a positive campaign resonated with voters.

“We stated the facts and kept everything positive,” Tricoci said. “The village is headed in the right direction.”

Although he trailed the field, Del Angel said he wished the winners well and said he was glad to see Mandel defeated at the polls.

“If I was able to help knock out a counterproductive incumbent who didn’t contribute, if I was able to do that, that’s a win,” Del Angel said.

With independent trustee H. Bob Demopoulos choosing not to run for a fourth term, the election results mean a single party will occupy every seat on the North Riverside Village Board for the first time since 2011.