Urbana Mayor Prussing Tops Challenger in Democratic Primary
By Jeff Bossert
On a day of sparse voter turnout, Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing easily defeated challenger Les Stratton in a Democratic primary, winning the party's nomination.
Prussing will pursue a third term, after beating Stratton 65-to-35 percent as less than 2,000 ballots, or just under 10 percent of registered voters went to the polls. The incumbent Prussing received 1,288 votes, while Stratton received 698 votes.
Prussing said Stratton ran a very energetic campaign, while she responded to attacks by running on her record.
“My campaign was about what we had accomplished, and what we’re planning to do," she said. "And I think the basic message is that we have a very good government in Urbana that is very close to the public. We’re open to the public. We have a lot of public participation on boards and commissions, and also at the council meetings.”
Stratton said he likely will not for office again, but he believes he has identified some issues taxpayers want to know more about, and set an example for those who want to run a good campaign. He criticized projects like the redevelopment of the Urbana Landmark Hotel and Boneyard Creek beautification.
A retired Urbana Public Works employee, Stratton said Tuesday's wet weather hurt his level of support, but he also believes he exposed some issues that city officials will have to address.
“People need to get involved," he said. "We’re never going to change anything if people don’t get involved. As we continue to go along as we are without any checks and balances, then we’re going to have problems.”
Prussing’s primary victory means a rematch between her and Republican Rex Bradfield, who the mayor defeated in the 2009 election.
Incumbent Urbana City Clerk Phyllis Clark also defeated her challenger Tuesday, Robert Michael Gatsche, 77-to-23 percent.
Looking ahead to April, Bradfield said he plans to campaign on some of the same issues that Stratton did. Bradfield said he agrees with Stratton’s stance that redevelopment plans, like the Boneyard Creek beautification project, but he does not guarantee new business will come to the city.
The Republican even suggested Stratton might have a position in the city should he defeat Prussing on April 9th.
“I will tell you that I will look to Les with his ideas and things," he said. "I’ll do that immediately with him and if there’s some position that I thought Les could do, something for the city that he’s already approached, and he seems to already be an authority, why not ask him?”
Despite the margin of victory, Bradfield believes some of Prussing’s usual base of support stayed away from the polls in the low voter turnout. He said the next election should have more to do with issues than political party.
It had been eight years since Urbana’s last contested mayoral primary, when Prussing topped former mayor Tod Satterthwaite.
Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said Tuesday’s turnout of just under 2,000 voters was about half of what was seen in 2005.