by Josh Bootsma
LANSING, Ill. (April 2, 2019) – JJ Kelley’s was abuzz with the sounds of victory on Election Night as the Village Voice Party, along with friends, family, and residents celebrated decisive victories in the race for Village Board Trustee.
Concluding a campaign that started in late 2018, Village Board Trustee candidates Saad Abbasy, Mike Fish, and Jerry Zeldenrust spent the evening talking with nearly 100 guests before giving victory speeches once it became clear that they would win.
When the first precincts started reporting around 7:30pm, the three Village Voice Party (VVP) candidates took a small lead in the race over their opponent Larry Thomas Jr., who ran as an independent. As the evening continued, the margin widened. Once 17 of the 21 districts in Lansing reported results, the party began to give its victory speeches.
“Lansing has spoken,” said Fish in his comments to the crowd, “The Village Voice Party is strong. People believe in us.”
Fish, a 50-year Lansing resident, received the most votes for Village Board Trustee with 30.3%. He served in the Lansing Public Works Department for 30 years, and made a point during the campaign to focus on the needs of seniors, pointing to a senior luncheon the VVP hosted as his favorite moment of the campaign.
Saad Abbasy received the second-most votes, notching 29.48%. Abbasy, a Lansing native, lives here with his wife and two children, and has served as chair of the Planning and Zoning Board for two years. This campaign season was the second for Abbasy, who first ran for Village Board Trustee unsuccessfully in 2015 with the Lansing Vision Party.
Abbasy began his speech by saying, “We did it! You did it. Each and every one of you in this room, whether it was a text or a phone call, passing out literature, or spreading the word, this victory—this VVP victory—is as much you guys in this room as it is people on this stage.”
Jerry Zeldenrust is the only current Village Trustee who was on the ballot in this year’s race. When Patty Eidam was elected mayor in 2017, she appointed Zeldenrust to finish her term as Trustee. The retired Lansing police officer claimed 27.26% of the vote, securing himself another four years as Trustee, where he currently reports on police and finance matters.
Jerry closed his victory speech by saying, “The end of [my speeches throughout the campaign] always said, ‘I envision a Lansing where dedicated people all play their part in serving and being served.’ And it’s happening before my very eyes. I couldn’t be more proud to be part of it.”
Independent candidate Larry Thomas did not hold an event on April 2. The 10-year Lansing resident received 12.95% of the total votes, less than half of his competition’s votes. Thomas is a member of LACE and the Lansing Lions, and works at a staffing agency.
“It’s tough to be the independent against three,” Thomas said. “It’s tough to run against the slate…and the mayor and the incumbent party that’s already sitting in the majority of the seats in the legislature. It was tough.”
Thomas said that he was not surprised by the results, but plans to run for Village Trustee again in two years.
Overall, the voter turnout in Lansing was largely unimpressive. At 12%, the percentage of registered voters who cast ballots in this year’s election is the lowest it has been in the last ten years of Lansing’s local elections. In fact, Lansing’s voter turnout has generally been in decline over the last ten years.
“I wish more people came and voted,” Fish said privately before his speech. “Every election means something and people have to get out there. …I’m a little disappointed at the turnout.”
Fish and Abbasy will take their places on the Board next month, replacing Tony Delaurentis and Mike Skrbina. Zeldenrust will retain his seat on the Board.
The Lansing Village Board regularly meets at 7:00pm on every first and third Tuesday of the month at the Municipal Court Complex (Lansing Police Department), 2710 170th Street.