Romeoville Mayor John Noak declared victory over former Chicago Bear Steve “Mongo” McMichael Tuesday night, claiming 61 to 39 percent of the votes in unofficial results, with all the precincts reporting.
“I was confident all along that the voters would decide who is the best and knows the issues instead of voting for someone just because they are a celebrity,” Noak said Tuesday night. “It’s time to get back to work. I am proud we kept our campaign positive. I think voters are sick and tired of negative politics.”
In his concession speech at Mongo McMichaels sports bar just before 9 p.m., McMichael congratulated his opponent and said he was humbled by the support of the crowd gathered, which included staffers in “Mongo for Mayor” T-shirts.
Before his speech, McMichael worked the room, hugging supporters, some of whom had tears in their eyes.
“It seems as if the fat lady has sung,” McMichael said, “and this one has been lost.
“But just because the fat lady has sung on this one don’t mean that its over,” he said to cheers. “There is another election in four years, isn’t there?”
McMichael then congratulated Noak, and said Romeoville residents should hold Noak to his campaign promises.
“I waded into that political theater, and boy did I learn a lesson,” he said. “I’ve looked at everything I’ve done in my life and succeeded at, every stage … I’ve looked at it like its a marathon not a sprint. Hang in there, this ain’t over.”
Noak thanked his family, friends, campaign volunteers and the community during his victory speech. He also gave a shout-out to those on his Romeoville United team that were voted back into office, including incumbents Village Clerk Bernice Holloway and Trustees Jose Chavez, Brian Clancy and David Richards.
“It’s time for us to get back to work,” Noak told a cheering crowd of supporters.
McMichael, 55, who has never been involved in politics before, declined to debate Noak, who has been mayor since 2008, during the campaign season.
McMichael played 15 seasons in the NFL, including 13 with the Bears, and was a key member of the Super Bowl champions in the 1985 season. He was known as an outspoken and hardworking defensive lineman, a football luminary who once threw a chair through a blackboard in a moment of competitive zeal.
Since his retirement from football after the 1994 season, McMichael has been a professional wrestler, coached the Chicago Slaughter indoor football team to a championship, held TV and radio analyst gigs, and done radio commercials for an Elgin strip club.
The celebrity nature of the Romeoville race meant increased turnout, election judges at one polling location said Tuesday afternoon.
“We are well up over 300,” election volunteer John Fetting said at the Parks and Recreation Department polling site. “I was expecting 50.”
Noak and McMichael traded jabs for months since the former Bear legend announced his mayoral aspirations on a radio show in August, stating he was encouraged by customers at Mongo McMichaels restaurant and sports bar in Romeoville.
McMichael ran a campaign focusing on avoiding “politics as usual” and an open-door policy at the mayor’s office.
Noak largely ran on the successes he claimed during his first term, including the addition of more than 4,000 workforce positions that have given residents additional employment opportunities and generated more revenue for the village.
Noak has lived in town for a decade and was elected as a village trustee in 2005 before being appointed mayor in 2008. He won his first mayoral election in 2009.
Ed Seidel, 69, a retired Romeoville resident, was at Mongo McMichaels on Tuesday night and said part of the candidate’s appeal is that he did not seem like a standard politician.
“He looks at the village totally different, not as a politician, but as a person,” Seidel said.
-Chicago Tribune reporting