Corbett re-elected Cedar Rapids mayor; two other incumbents returning to council

Four-way runoff election Dec. 3 to fill two at-large council seats

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett sings
Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett sings "Sweet Home Cedar Rapids," a spoof on "Sweet Home Chicago," with local band Crankshaft after election results came in during a watch party at Flamingo Restaurant on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

UPDATE: Instead of the traditional victory speech, Mayor Ron Corbett celebrated his re-election Tuesday night by treating supporters to his rendition of the blues standard “Sweet Home Chicago,” substituting “Cedar Rapids” for the Windy City.

Corbett, who won by more than a two-to-one margin, saw two messages in his lopsided victory over Greg Hughes. His 67 percent to 32 percent win was both a referendum on the past four years and the tough flood recovery decisions he and the City Council made as well as an endorsement of his “open for business” policy to help businesses recover from the historic 2008 flood and recruit new businesses.

“I think people realized that we made some great progress since the flood,” Corbett, who won 13,041 to 6,187, said during a celebration at the Flamingo in northwest Cedar Rapids. “I mean, we had the largest natural disaster in Iowa history and now, today, we’re Iowa’s most livable city.”

Meanwhile, Councilman Chuck Swore, who missed winning re-election by less than three-quarters of a percentage point, promised to “keep doing what I’ve been doing” between now and the Dec. 3 runoff among the top four vote-getters for two at-large council seats.

“It sucks,” Swore said about the prospects of the runoff. “With it being the only race on the ballot, nobody votes. Whoever has the most family wins, I guess.”

Swore took 24.27 percent of the vote in the seven-way at-large race. To win outright, candidates in the at-large race had to receive at least 25 percent of the votes plus one, according to Linn County Deputy Commissioner of Elections Tim Box.

First-time candidates Ralph Russell, Susie Weinacht and Carletta Knox-Seymour finished with 19.36, 19.01 and 15.04 percent, respectively, according to unofficial totals.

In the at-large race, former Councilman Jerry McGrane, Anthony Brown and Leland Freie rounded out the field with 9.7, 8 and 3.6 percent of the vote.

The top vote-getter in the runoff will serve a four-year term while the runner-up will serve a one-time two-year term.

In District 1, Kris Gulick, 55, a certified public accountant and owner of a business consulting service, promised he’ll keep on doing what he promised when he was first elected eight years ago. With 64.4 percent of the votes, he easily outdistanced his challengers Clark Rieke, 23.3 percent, and Ajai Dittmar, 11.8 percent.

In District 3, business owner Pat Shey, who disagreed with his three challengers by supporting the extension of the city’s 1-percent local-option sales tax for 10 years, was re-elected with 53.2 percent of the votes in a four-way race for a four-year term. Retired pastor Robin Kash finished with 30 percent, followed by Alan Modracek, 10.7 percent, and Robert Bates, 5.37 percent.

Justin Shields, running unopposed, was re-elected in District 5 with 95 percent of the vote.

Corbett found his re-election even sweeter than his victory four years ago.

“Only because we had some tough decisions to make over the past four years and I know that not every one of those decisions was universally supported,” Corbett said. “In general, citizens know we were working hard and I think that’s one of the reasons Shey and Gulick got re-elected, too.”

He also took satisfaction in the fact the local-option sales tax was extended for another decade. Corbett literally took the issue to the streets by running 140 miles to point out the condition of streets.

“I tried to be open and honest with people on how we’re going to fix them,” he said. “We can’t wait for the Legislature to raise the gas tax and I think that’s why voters approved a pay-as-you-go plan.”

Even in the at-large race where Swore failed to win re-election, Corbett said the challengers didn’t seem to have an ax to grind with Swore or the council’s decisions.

It may have been a combination of low turnout — 22.3 percent — and too many choices on the ballot for anyone to meet the 25 percent-plus one threshold, Corbett and Swore said.

“All six agreed with everything I had done,” Swore said. They all supported extending the local-option sales tax to fix streets and agreed on the benefit of traffic enforcement cameras, especially in slowing traffic in the crash-prone S-curve on Interstate 380.“At least I didn’t finish fifth,” Swore said.

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