Brad Hart wins race for Cedar Rapids mayor

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Business lawyer Brad Hart will be Cedar Rapids’ next mayor after beating former City Council member Monica Vernon in a runoff Tuesday.

Hart took more than 54 percent of the vote.

Hart said he was excited to get started after a sprawling race that initially had eight candidates seeking the seat that Ron Corbett is leaving.

“This was grass roots,” Hart said. “We didn’t have a database. No party behind us. Just a lot of people who wanted to know how they could help.”

Vernon praised Hart after the votes were counted.

“Brad will do a great job,” she said. “Brad will step up. He’ll be great. … I love this community, and I just want what is best for it.”

Hart said he plans to meet this week with City Manager Jeff Pomeranz, one of the first items on his to-do list.

Vernon, who has run four races in four years, including three for higher office, said she doesn’t plan to run again for any office. Beyond that, she said she doesn’t know her next step.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors will canvass final results Tuesday.

Vernon, 60, a businesswoman, had received the most votes in the Nov. 7 regular election — 30.3 percent — while Hart, 61, a lawyer at Bradley & Riley, came in second with 20.3 percent. In Cedar Rapids, if a candidate fails to get more than 50 percent in the general election, the top two go to a runoff.

The runoff drew 17,569 votes, including 3,459 early votes and at least 952 people who didn’t vote in the regular election. It nearly matched the Nov. 7 turnout for the race, which had 17,661 votes. Such high turnout in a runoff is unusual, officials have said.

Hart cast himself as community servant leader who’ll bring a fresh perspective and would not be bogged down by partisan baggage — as opposed to Vernon, who ran as a Democrat in campaigns for Congress.

“I voted for Hart to get someone new in there who’s not in politics at all and might have a new thought process,” said Tom Dennler, 59, who cast a vote at the Cedar Rapids City Services Building. “I felt like Monica was running for whatever she could come up with.”

Hart outspent Vernon nearly 2-to-1, or $112,814 to $63,684, in the regular election and runoffs.

The new mayor will lead a major turnover on the nine-member council, which will see five new faces Jan. 2 when new four-year terms begin. The part-time mayor job paid $35,378 this year.

The new council will quickly jump into crafting a fiscal 2019 budget and face the possibility of a $4 million gap if the state stops backfilling commercial property tax cuts, as some fear.

Lobbying the state to protect the backfill is high on Hart’s priority list, as is getting to know the new council.

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For all of The Gazette's Election 2017 coverage, please visit our election coverage center.

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