Not all the votes are in, but enough of them were counted Tuesday to confirm Ken Kaupas as the Republican nominee for the November sheriff’s race.
Kaupas’ narrow lead of 220 votes on the March 18 election night edged up to 221 when late-arriving absentee and provisional votes were counted Tuesday morning at the Will County Clerk’s office.
The close finish created some doubt before the final votes were counted. Kaupas got 50.3 percent of the vote compared to Nick Ficarello’s 49.7 percent.
“When all is said and done I picked up one vote,” Kaupas said after receiving 32 provisional ballots approved by election judges to Ficarello’s 31. Each candidate received 101 absentee votes.
The vote totals are not quite official. A small part of Aurora that is in Will County, but has its votes counted by Kane County, will send a certified copy of those results to Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz-Voots by April 8. The number of remaining votes isn’t expected to be enough to make a difference in the outcome.
Ficarello and Kaupas were the only candidates to attend Tuesday’s count in the basement of the county building. The two men briefly exchanged greetings before 10 pairs of Democratic and Republican election judges started reviewing the 135 provisional ballots that were submitted.
Provisional ballots are submitted on Election Day when a voter’s registration may be outdated or inaccurate. The judges approved 106 provisional ballots.
“In order to get this done we have to work together,” said Democrat Lois Tomac, who has been an election judge for 41 years.
“Every candidate should be an election judge first so they understand that,” her Republican colleague, Olympia Diamatopoulos, agreed.
Absentee ballots that arrived on Election Day or later are counted if they were postmarked by midnight on the day before the election. Schultz-Voots said a total of 291 such valid absentee votes came in – most immediately after the election, but “two or three” still arrived each day last week.
Ficarello did not concede the race after Tuesday’s results were announced, but said he will meet with campaign staff in the next few days to decide on his best course of action.
Ficarello acknowledged running in November as an independent candidate “is an option,” but said he would support Kaupas’ candidacy as a Republican.
Kaupas said he would welcome Ficarello’s support and felt both were surprised at how close the race turned out to be.
“When you look at our backgrounds there are a lot of similarities with the assignments we’ve had through different agencies,” Kaupas said. Kaupas retired after 26 years with the state police and became a sheriff’s deputy chief. Ficarello served 31 years with sheriff’s department before retiring as a deputy chief.
Excluding any pending provisional ballots from Aurora, Kaupas received a total of 20,688 votes and Ficarello received 20,467. Kaupas beat Ficarello by roughly three-tenths of a percentage point.
Kaupas hoped his slight edge was the result of efforts to avoid “political mudslinging,” which he believes all voters have tired of.
“I ran a positive campaign. I didn’t mail negative pieces about my opponent. I talked about my experience and the fiscal issues facing the sheriff’s department. I plan to do the same in the general election,” Kaupas said.
Kaupas believes Sgt. Mike Kelley, who easily won a three-way Democratic primary, will do the same. Both Kaupas and Kelley work in the sheriff’s investigations division.
“It will be interesting because we work together. He and I talked about that [Monday] and we feel the same way. Neither of us want to politicize our jobs as police officers,” Kaupas said.