Metro-East News

Rothweiler wins close Ward 6 race in Belleville after mail-in votes counted

Rothweiler discusses Ward 6 vote count

Chris Rothweiler discusses the new vote totals in the race to be the alderman in Belleville Ward 6. After vote by mail ballots were counted, Rothweiler took the lead in the race over Andrew Gaa.
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Chris Rothweiler discusses the new vote totals in the race to be the alderman in Belleville Ward 6. After vote by mail ballots were counted, Rothweiler took the lead in the race over Andrew Gaa.

Chris Rothweiler is the apparent winner in the race for Ward 6 alderman in Belleville as he garnered 14 votes by mail. Andrew Gaa received only four votes by mail, according to counts by the St. Clair County Clerk’s office.

That brings Rothweiler’s vote total to 313. Gaa now has 310 votes, according to unofficial totals. After election night, Gaa had a seven-vote lead.

“We were very fortunate to overcome the lead that my opponent had. I would like to say my opponent ran a good race,” Rothweiler said. “He’s a good person, he cares about Belleville, and I really appreciate his consideration and his friendship throughout the process.”

The mail-in votes were counted Tuesday morning at the St. Clair County Building. The votes still need to be certified by the Illinois State Board of Elections and candidates can ask for a recount within five days of the vote being certified.

St. Clair County Clerk Tom Holbrook was required to wait 14 days before counting the mail-in ballots for the April 2 election.

Gaa said the results released Tuesday were “truly disappointing.”

“As a courtesy to my supporters, I will consider asking for a petition for discovery recount of today’s final vote,” Gaa said in an email.

“I would like to thank my family and friends for their support and to Mary and Bill Stiehl for helping me so much in my political campaign. I would also like to thank Mayor (Mark) Eckert for appointing me alderman two years ago and for giving me the opportunity to serve the citizens of Belleville and Ward 6. I have enjoyed serving the past two years on the city council and I will definitely continue to stay involved with city activities.”

The Belleville race was highlighted by St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern’s donation of $5,600 and his mother’s donation of $10,000 to the political action committee Friends and Families for Belleville, which was formed to support three City Council candidates: Rothweiler, Randy Randolph and Bryan Whitaker. These candidates criticized Eckert’s administration.

In total, the PAC raised $21,835 for the election, according to the State Board Elections. The PAC spent $9,743.69 on printing, yards signs and photography among other things, according to its quarterly report filed on Monday.

The slate garnered a total of 571 votes, and spent $17.06 per vote.

Rothweiler said he was an unknown and needed to get his name out.

“It takes money to do that,” Rothweiler said. “My opponent is well-known in the community. I’m completely unknown. It takes a lot more when you’re unknown to try to overcome that.”

Rothweiler added his campaign was aggressive in distributing vote by mail applications to voters who wouldn’t be able to cast a ballot on election day.

Gaa was endorsed by Eckert, who said he donated about $300 to Gaa and Joe Hazel and Carmen Duco, two other candidates who defeated Friends and Families for Belleville candidates Whitaker and Randolph.

Eckert added he believes each candidate was able to raise about $3,500 total, which is below the threshold of $5,000 needed to be reported to the State Board of Elections.

Candidates backed by Eckert received a total of 662 votes, which amounts to about $15.86 per vote, if they spent their full amount raised.

Kern has not commented about why he backed the anti-Eckert candidates and he could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. The News-Democrat also left messages with his office on March 20, March 26, April 3 and April 10.

Eckert has said he doesn’t know why the Kern family invested $15,600 in support of candidates who criticized him.

It was Kern who appointed Eckert to the mayor’s post in 2004 after he had won the County Board chairman’s race.

Eckert said he thinks Gaa needs to consider whether to ask for a recount.

“Andy ran a very positive campaign, positive for Belleville and positive for his family,” Eckert said. “He can feel very good about the fact he didn’t sling any mud. I think he’s made of the right stuff.”

Eckert and other current aldermen have said they were upset with the “flat out lies” in campaign fliers mailed out by Rothweiler, Randolph and Whitaker.

“There were some hurtful things said there and Mr. Rothweiler’s were some of the meanest,” Eckert said.

Rothweiler called Gaa a “hand-picked yes-man.”

Gaa was appointed to the council by Eckert in 2017 to take the seat of former Alderman Paul Seibert, who resigned his spot on the council to take his late wife’s position on the St. Clair County Board.

And in this race, Seibert donated $200 to the Friends and Families for Belleville, which supported Rothweiler.

As far as the money donated to the Friends and Families for Belleville, Eckert said, “You can get a heck of spin out there when you have pretty big chunks of money to deal with.”

He also criticized Rothweiler, Randolph and Whitaker for not attending City Council meetings during the campaign.

“If you’re gonna run for office, you need to learn and watch and listen what the office is all about and that wasn’t done in the election at all,” Eckert said. “They sat back, they said nothing. The word was, ‘Don’t talk.’”

Another close race

In Fairview Heights Ward 2, Anthony LeFlore was able to hold onto his lead after a handful of mail in ballots were counted on Tuesday.

LeFlore is the apparent winner with 161 votes. Roger Lowry had 158 votes.

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Joseph Bustos is the state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, where he strives to hold elected officials accountable and provide context to decisions they make. He has won multiple awards from the Illinois Press Association for coverage of sales tax referenda.