DiMaria defeats Staackmann in Morton Grove mayoral primary
Dan DiMaria of Morton Grove celebrates with supporters after winning the Action Party mayoral primary on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at Bringer Inn in Morton Grove. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 1, 2013 7:12AM
MORTON GROVE — Dan DiMaria stood on a chair in a room at the Bringer Inn, crowded with supporters who spilled out into the main bar, thanking them for his victory in Tuesday’s Action Party primary election.
The crowd included members of the party as well as former Caucus Party trustees and independents gathered to celebrate the successful campaign.
Just a few blocks away, Mayor Dan Staackmann opened a bottle of champagne in the garage of his house, passing around paper cups to a handful of supporters and toasting what he said would be “a whole lot of free time.”
Final unofficial returns showed DiMaria with 1,684 votes or just over 60 percent. Staackmann, seeking his second term as mayor, took home 1,112 votes, or 40 percent.
In the April general election, DiMaria will face Trustee Larry Gomberg, also elected on the Action Party ticket but running for mayor as an independent.
“This is about you. You got me elected,” DiMaria told the cheering crowd at the Bringer Inn. “I know I have a lot of work in front of me. I’m a little bit awestruck.”
Speaking to his supporters and Action Party officials before going to a party at Tommy’s, Staackmann noted that he had been in public service for close to three decades, including 16 years on the Morton Grove Park Board, two terms as village trustee and one as mayor.
“I’ve made a lot of friends. I guess I’ve made a lot of enemies,” he joked. “I appreciate the support people have given me over the years.”
It was an unusual race from the start.
DiMaria, elected first as village clerk and later as trustee on the Morton Grove Action Party slate, sought the party’s endorsement to run for mayor this year, but lost in the slating committee by two votes. Despite that, he challenged Staackmann, the party-endorsed candidate.
Much of the campaign concerned economic development and the village’s efforts to attract new business and keep existing ones. A key part of DiMaria’s campaign was a pledge to take a more personal involvement in the process.
Tuesday night, DiMaria said that will be his major objective if he is elected in April.
“My passion for economic development and taking that extra step to bring business to town resonated with people,” DiMaria said.
DiMaria said Staackmann called him a “salesman” during the campaign. But he said he accepts that characterization.
“That’s not a negative thing,” DiMaria said.
DiMaria and other Action Party officials such as Trustee Bill Grear, who supported DiMaria, said the party will unite for the general election in April. The post of mayor is the only one of five that are contested in the general election.
That healing appeared to begin Tuesday night. Village Clerk Tony Kalogerakos, running for trustee in April, came from Staackmann’s gathering to DiMaria’s to congratulate the winner. Trustee Shel Marcus, who had supported Staackmann, also showed up at the Bringer Inn to offer his congratulations.
“I think the party is going to be bigger, better and stronger than ever,” Grear said.
Staackmann noted that he came in to office facing a $2.7 million deficit and made what he said were hard decisions to cut spending in an effort to balance the budget.
While that may have lost him support, he said he was not alone in doing it.
“People didn’t always like the hard decisions,” Staackmann said. “The entire village board went along with all of those decisions.”
But he said he is proud of the four years he served as mayor.
“I think we accomplished more in four years than most people are able to do in twice that amount of time,” he said.
DiMaria said the campaign brought together all segments of the village, and that was a key to his victory.
“This was a galvanizing campaign,” he said. “We brought people together from all areas of the village, from the Caucus Party, a lot of Action people.”
Grear said he and other Action Party members were willing to support DiMaria despite his loss in the slating process by an 8 to 6 vote of the slating committee.
“We felt we had to go against the 8 to 6 vote. The village needed the best person,” Grear said.~.