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Mayor reached deep into wallet for win

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Evanston’s mayoral race this year was three times as expensive as the same contest four years ago.


Evanston’s mayoral race this year was three times as expensive as the same contest four years ago.

And Elizabeth Tisdahl spent more than twice as much to win election as mayor as Lorraine Morton did to hold onto the job in a two-way contest in 2005.

Campaign finance reports filed with the state show that Tisdahl spent more than $84,000 to win the part-time job that pays $19,000 a year plus health benefits. The deadline for filing the reports was Monday.

More than half Tisdahl’s campaign war chest came out of her own pocket — she loaned her campaign over $45,000 — money the campaign has been unable to repay.

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By contrast, Morton, who endorsed Tisdahl this year, made a temporary loan of $1,200 to her own campaign in 2005 and was able to repay that from contributions, and also repaid a $6,000 loan from a supporter.

Morton and challenger Peter Godwin spent a total of $45,000 on the 2005 race.

The large amount spent this year “could have a chilling effect” on future campaigns by candidates of modest means, said Barnaby Dinges, who finished third in this year’s four-way mayoral contest.

Dinges said that between her financial resources and endorsement from the so-called “Evanston machine” — a coalition of local officeholders, most of whom belong to the Democratic Party of Evanston — it will be hard to find candidates willing to challenge Tisdahl if she decides to run again.

“To challenge her, candidates would have to have substantial funds themselves or find other wealthy people to support them,” Dinges added.

The mayor did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment about the cost of the campaign.

Tisdahl’s campaign costs work out to $13 for each of the 6,430 votes she received, just under 62 percent of the total votes cast. Morton received nearly 73 percent of the vote in 2005.

Dinges spent $30,330 on his race or $23 for each vote he received, including a $5,000 loan he made to the campaign that it’s been unable to repay.

Stuart Opdycke, who finished second in the vote totals, spent $17,757 on his campaign and did not loan it any of his own money. That spending works out to $10 for each vote he got.

Opdycke said he has “no complaints” about the election, which he called “a good and fair campaign all around.”

“Liz will make a fine mayor,” he added, “If I’m asked to help her, I will.”

Jeanne Lindwall, who finished fourth, spent $9,272 — or $11 for every vote she received. She loaned her campaign $4,000 — of which $3,062 is still outstanding.

Related link

Illinois State Board of Elections Campaign Disclosure website

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