New Aurora mayor got in because no one got left out, he says
It took a lot of teamwork to end Aurora Alderman at Large Richard Irvin's mayoral losing streak, he said.
On April 4, after failing in 2005, 2009 and 2013, the East Aurora native and graduate of East Aurora High School became the city's first African-American to be elected mayor.
What delivered the win was a more inclusive campaign, Irvin said on a recent edition of the Chicago-based radio talk show "Illinois Rising."
"We took an independent approach to running this particular campaign," he said. "In 2005, I ran for mayor for the first time. I presented myself as the conservative Republican."
He said he had strong Republican support, including the nod of the state General Assembly's House Republican Organization, but it wasn't enough.
"What we tried to do this time is we tried to be inclusive," he said. "Because the reality is that municipal government is nonpartisan. So we included Democrats, Republicans, independents, people who never participated in politics in their whole life. They all joined our team, and we tried to spread the word that we were trying to be as independent as possible and inclusive of all walks of life."
Irvin's race and eventual win were initially eclipsed by the stunning loss in February of Rep. Linda Chapa La Via, an Aurora Democrat who lost the primary despite backing from House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago).
The 49-year-old daughter of Texas cotton pickers, Chapa La Via has represented Illinois’ 83rd District since 2003, which includes part of Kane County and the city of Aurora. She became the the first person of Hispanic descent to win a seat in the Illinois Legislature outside of Cook County during the 2002 elections, when she defeated then-Rep. Bob O'Connor.
Now Aurora alderman-at-large, O'Connor has been acting mayor of the city since Tom Weisner, who'd been mayor for 11 years, stepped down last fall for health reasons. O'Connor was not a candidate in the primary.
Chapa La Via was among five Aurora residents to sign up for the officially nonpartisan mayoral race. In addition to Irvin, others were longtime resident Jose Luis Del Bosque, Ward Six Alderman Michael Saville and Aurora Assistant Chief of Staff Richard Guzman. Del Bosque later withdrew. Irvin and Guzman came out on top in February, leaving Chapa La Via a distant third.
"Mike Madigan had his candidate, and we still came out on top," Irvin said.
Guzman, a candidate of Filipino descent, had the endorsements of Weisner and Kane County Board Chairman and former Republican Sen. Chris Lauzen.
"It didn't work," Irvin said. "I think the people spoke and said that they wanted something different. So we beat the machine."
He credits three major goals with his win: improving the economy and rebuilding downtown, putting a check on crime, and developing a plan to improve education in the city.
"The fact that I'm from Aurora, I've been here through good times and bad times, it resonated with the citizens that I will continue to be here and will continue to fight on their behalf in the city of Aurora," he said.
"Illinois Rising" is hosted by Dan Proft who is a principal of Local Government Information Services, which owns this publication.
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