EAST ST. LOUIS • Councilwoman Emeka Jackson-Hicks unseated two-term incumbent Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. here on Tuesday, outpacing her opponent by a wide margin to take over the leadership of this struggling city.
Jackson-Hicks had held a wide lead in the race in ballots cast on Tuesday at the city's 21 polling places. The final result was held up pending what election officials described as the arduous process of counting absentee ballots, which included votes for Parks and another write-in candidate.
But Jackson-Hicks, the daughter of Democratic state Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson, finished with more votes than all write-in candidates, including Parks. She also easily bested the only other candidate on the ballot, area real estate agent Courtney Hoffman.
"It feels great!" Jackson-Hicks exclaimed late Tuesday. "Our first priority will be to go in to city hall, establish a good working environment there and then get government to work for the people."
The city's election got complicated when the Illinois Supreme Court booted Parks off the ballot last month because he had failed to collect enough valid primary signatures.
Parks then registered as a write-in candidate.
Parks could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Already facing a budget crisis because of the declining fortunes of its largest tax contributor, the Casino Queen, East St. Louis took another financial punch on Tuesday when Schnuck Markets announced that it would close its only store in East St. Louis on May 2.
The Casino Queen has seen admissions drops in the double digits in recent months. The casino accounts for about 43 percent of the city’s current operating budget of $19.4 million.
Jackson-Hicks said she planned to confer with management at Schnuck Markets to get them to reconsider.
"We are going to salvage all the businesses we can and establish an environment to attract new business to the town," Jackson-Hicks said Tuesday.
Mayoral elections also topped the ballots in Cahokia, Collinsville and Fairview Heights.
In Fairview Heights, the city’s clerk, Mark Kupsky, easily defeated aldermen Joshua M. Frawley and Speed Allen Jr. to replace longtime Mayor Gail Mitchell, who opted not to run for a sixth term.
In Collinsville, voters elected incumbent Mayor John Miller to a second full term in a close race with city councilman Mike Tognarelli. Miller was first elected mayor in 2009 to serve the remainder of the term vacated by the death of former Mayor Stan Schaeffer. Miller was re-elected in 2011
And in Cahokia, Curtis McCall Jr., a St. Clair County Board member, outpaced incumbent Gary Cornwell in the race for village president.
Meanwhile, the Granite City School District’s request for an 80-cent tax increase failed. The tax would have been expected to raise an extra $3.8 million in annual tax revenue for the district.
The proposal had faced an uphill fight in light of the pending layoffs of 2,000 workers at United State’s Steel’s Granite City Works.
Passage of the referendum would have been expected to increase taxes by $267 a year on a home valued at $100,000.
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