Oak Park gay activist Ray Johnson finished first among 10 candidates for the three open Oak Park Village Trustee positions in the April 1 elections. He was sworn in Monday night, making him the second openly GLBT trustee in that west suburban town's history. Joanne Trapani, who is now president of the village board, was the first openly gay person elected in this progressive municipality.
Johnson finished with 2,765 votes, followed by David Pope with 2,677. The two were part of a slate of three endorsed by the clout-heavy Village Manager Association; however, the third candidate finished sixth. The final trustee elected was Robert Milstein, who had 2,316 votes.
The Daily Herald reports that another suburban gay man was also elected to his town's council—George Safford of Warrenville in the heart of DuPage County. Safford won 441-307 over Clare Barry for 4th Ward alderman, making him the first openly gay candidate in the home county of conservative former state Senate leader Pate Philip, who held up state gay-rights legislation for years.
Safford, 59, told the Herald that his sexuality never came up in the race, and that he believes Warrenville is a 'much more tolerant, open-minded, liberal community.' Mayor Vivian Lund told the paper she supports Safford, who is a credit union consultant who also works with the chamber of commerce and other local cultural and neighborhood groups.
Johnson, who is former co-chair of the Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association, was endorsed by both local newspapers.
'I am thrilled, exhilarated,' he said the day after he won. 'This is a wonderful opportunity, and we had a campaign and committee that reflected Oak Park's diversity. There were a lot of new folks, young and old, renters and homeowners, lesbian, gay and straight, and we worked this village block by block.'
There are a total of six Trustees and President Joanne Trapani. A third openly gay person, Bob Walsh, is a member of the District 97 elementary school board, which is also an elected position.
In other local elections April 1, challenger Manuel Flores defeated Chicago's 1st Ward incumbent Jesse Granato. Athletes Bob Love and Willye White couldn't win in their races to unseat Ald. Ted Thomas (15th) and Freddrenna Lyle (6th). Howard Brookins upset Leonard DeVille in the 21st Ward.