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East St. Louis mayor loses reelection bid to city councilman — what happened and what’s next?

Mayor Robert Eastern shakes a supporter's hand.
Derik Holtmann
Belleville News-Democrat
East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III, shakes hands with a supporter during a reelection fundraiser in October.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Charles Powell III,an incumbent city councilman, will be the new mayor of East St. Louis, according to unofficial election returns.

Powell defeated Mayor Robert Eastern III,who was running for his second term, and challengerMarie Franklin in Tuesday’s election.

Powell received 2,097 votes; Eastern got 1,734; and Franklin tallied 841, according to unofficial returns.

Powell was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Michael Collins, chairman of the East St. Louis Central Democratic Committee, said he is elated about the ticket he helped propel to victory.

He said the people of East St. Louis were tired of not getting basic services. They spoke loudly and clearly with their vote Tuesday, he said.

“They want this community cleaned up. They want the derelict structures torn down. Some of them are complaining about raw sewage in their homes,” Collins said. “They are tired. There are grants available for senior rehabs. But no money has been spent on these areas.”

Collins said Powell’s team listened. “They heard the citizens complaints. I think the citizens in East St. Louis are going to be more than a little pleased with the change they have ushered in with the new team and its leaders,” Collins said.

Eastern, in an interview with the BND Wednesday, thanked all the people who supported and encouraged him during his tenure as mayor and during the campaign.

“First of all I would like to thank God for allowing me to humbly serve as mayor of the City of Champions. Through him all blessings flow. It was truly a blessing for me to serve as the mayor of the city of East St. Louis,” he said. “I tried to impact and empower the city and citizens. It was truly an enriching experience for me. It is something I can never take lightly.”

Eastern said it was a challenging and tumultuous campaign. He said he appreciates the work of his team and candidates on his ticket.

“Without them this race would not have been as close as it was,” Eastern said. “It shows a testament to their tenacity.

“It shows the power of the people when you have a small group (5 committeemen) to go up against the Democratic machine of 20 committeemen with more financial resources and more bodies, and to come up short only a few hundred votes says a lot about me, my team members and all of my supporters.”

As for his plans for the future, Eastern said: ”I am a resident of the city of East St. Louis. I will continue to work and labor for her, the city of East St. Louis, because I want the best for her and the citizens.”

Other results in East St. Louis

Incumbent Councilman Tommy Dancy Jr. was apparently defeated in his race for re-election, unofficial returns show. LaVondo Pulley and Courtney Hoffman II won the two seats up for election this year.

Pulley received 2,238 votes; Hoffman, 2,010; Dancy, 1,314; DaKeesha Wren, 1,208; Lorenzo Savage Sr., 736; and Paris Grimmett, 540.

Treasurer Willie Arnold was the apparent winner in his re-election bid, defeating challenger Shantel Miller, 2,285 to 2,085, according to unofficial returns. Arnold was elected to his first term in April 2019.

City Clerk Debra Hamilton Tidwell, who ran unopposed for re-election, said she is “looking forward to working with the new administration” in East St. Louis.

Voters were also asked Tuesday to decide whether the city should no longer be a home rule community. East St. Louis is one of more than 220 home rule communities in Illinois.

Residents overwhelmingly said East St. Louis should continue as a home rule community, according to unofficial returns. The vote was 3,367 no and 762 yes.

``A municipality with home rule status can exercise any power and perform any function unless it is specifically prohibited from doing so by state law,” according to theIllinois Municipal League.

Towns with more than 25,000 population automatically are home rule communities. If a town’s population falls below 25,000, it continues under home rule but voters must approve it., according to the league’s website. The estimated population of East St. Louis is about 18,000, down from 27,000 in 2010, according to theU.S. Census Bureau.

All of the election results from Tuesday are unofficial. They are not official until local authorities complete their canvass, which must be done by April 25.

Carolyn P. Smith is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Carolyn P. Smith is a reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

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