Kenosha voters resoundingly returned John Antaramian to City Hall on Tuesday, ending his 8-year hiatus from the mayor’s office.
Supporters, including a virtual who’s-who of past and present aldermen, city department heads, business owners and a wide cross section of Kenosha’s electorate, were on hand at the Italian American Club to celebrate his landslide win over one-term Ald. Bob Johnson.
When he took to the microphone at 9 p.m. to thank supporters and campaign workers, unofficial results showed Antaramian already outpacing Johnson by a 62 percent to 38 percent margin. When all 92 polling places had reported a short time later, the gap had widened slightly in Antaramian’s favor.
The final, unofficial vote total was 16,240 votes for Antaramian, 9,447 for Johnson.
“We have a lot of opportunities in Kenosha,” Antaramian said. “I can’t wait to start working on them. ... This is the beginning. We’re at the front end.”
A beaming Antaramian noted Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser’s presence at the event, saying he looked forward to working with the county as well as the town of Paris and village of Somers — an allusion to the proposed intergovernmental agreement between those municipalities.
In an interview afterward, Antaramian said, “I think what the election tells people is that people are looking for where we can go, what types of things we can get done, projects we can do focusing on the future. We stayed away from the negative campaigning because I don’t believe in that.”
Back in the saddleAntaramian said he has no trepidation of being rusty after staying out of electoral politics the past eight years.
Altogether, Antaramian had served the city for 26 years, including 10 as a representative in the state Assembly, before he was elected mayor in 1992. He chose not to seek re-election in 2008.
Sitting on the sidelines the past eight years, enabled him “to see what happens when communities aren’t aggressive in redevelopment. It doesn’t happen,” Antaramian said. “There are only two directions: forward and back. There is no in-between.”
He said one of the first things he’ll look at as mayor will be the boundary agreement between Somers and Paris that would prevent the city’s future expansion west of Interstate 94. The agreement is scheduled for public hearing Thursday. City officials have said they weren’t invited to participate in the discussions with county, Paris and Somers officials.
Taking it all in Monday night was Anataramian’s wife, Linda.
She said after leaving City Hall, Antaramian never stopped caring about the city that has been his lifelong home.
“He cared so much. He always watched what was happening,” Linda Antaramian said. “He really needed to get back in there.”
Johnson concedesIn conceding to Antaramian, Johnson said, “The city has picked their next mayor, and now we have to take off our (candidate) jerseys and put on our city of Kenosha jerseys.”
When he threw his hat in the ring for mayor, Johnson filed not to run for re-election as an alderman.
“You never say never to another run, but now my focus will be on helping the City Council and the mayor move the city forward,” he said.
“I want to say thank you to everyone for their support,” Johnson added. “I think we performed very well.”
Barca optimisticAssembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, also was on hand at Antaramian’s victory party.
“It’s a commanding win,” said Barca, who served in the Legislature with Antaramian. “It’s above 60 percent. In a presidential race, that would be a mandate. I look forward to working with him and the new administration. And I think we’ll get some good things done.”
He added that Antaramian’s win “shows people have confidence in him and liked the job he did as mayor.”
— Kenosha News reporter Deneen Smith contributed to this story.
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