Jonathan Cook has conceded that Nathan Legardy is the likely winner of the fourth of four spots on the Homewood-Flossmoor District 233 election on Tuesday, but Legardy is being cautious about declaring victory.
Only four votes separate the two according to the unofficial results posted on the Cook County Clerk’s website after all precincts had reported.
Legardy had 2,343 votes, or 11.17 percent of the 6,147 votes cast. Cook had 2,339 votes, or 11.15 percent. In the summary report posted by the clerk’s office, the difference was slightly wider, with Legardy at 2,363 and Cook at 2,355 votes, 11.17 to 11.13 percent.
Board incumbents Gerald Pauling and Debbie Berman came in first and second in the race. Newcomer Pam Jackson won the third seat, and as of now, Legardy will fill the fourth seat. They will serve with Steve Anderson, Beth Larocca and Annette Bannon, who were elected to the board in 2017.
“Certainly I’m still cautious, because I know I have mail-in ballots still out there. I’m not necessarily ready to declare victory but I think I’m in a favorable position,” Legardy said.
“I knew this was going to be a close race,” Cook said Tuesday night while results from two precincts still hadn’t been posted. “I’m not necessarily surprised things are where they’re at right now.”
The race was the first run for public office for both men, and both said it was a rewarding experience. Both candidates said they continued to campaign hard until the last moment.
Cook noted that even though he had little name recognition in the community at the beginning of the race, he was impressed with how welcoming people were and generous with their time.
“People were happy to sign (petitions), welcomed me, wanted to hear what I was about,” he said. “When I was canvassing the last four weeks, people who didn’t know me, had never met me before said, ‘Well, come inside for a minute.'”
Legardy said the experience and the result demonstrated the importance of meeting voters.
“Every yard sign mattered, every canvassing effort mattered. I was canvassing alone in Glenwood on Monday night until about 7:30 and met some wonderful people,” he said. “I was out there and those were voters that potentially could have swung the election had I not engaged them.”
As the polls were closing Tuesday night, the two encountered each other while greeting voters near Flossmoor village hall.
“At the end of the night, I shook his hand and we wished each other luck,” Cook said. “That’s the way you’ve got to think about this. We will work together and continue to do what we can to keep this school strong.”
Legardy agreed with that sentiment.
“We had a great conversation. I have a lot of admiration for him,” he said. “Jonathan sent a very gracious concession this morning.”
Also gracious in defeat was Merle Huckabee, a District 161 board member who had hoped to move to the District 233 board. She said the election of another candidate she supported, Pam Jackson, helped make up for her loss.
“That’s a win for me. I am excited because we have a woman of color on that board,” she said. “Even if it could not be me, I’m happy for her. I am hoping we’ll see some change.”
Huckabee noted that she had news last week that had much bigger consequences for her than the school board election.
“This last week I won the biggest battle. I’ve been fighting breast cancer for the past year, and I’m cancer-free,” she said.
Jackson, also a first-time candidate, said she was glad the campaign was over and was eager to get to work on district business.
“I’m excited to be joining the board. I do believe I have some things to bring to the table,” she said. “I’m looking forward to working with and collaborating with all of my fellow board members.”
Cook and Huckabee said even though they apparently won’t be joining the board, both plan to stay involved in local education issues.
“I will continue to advocate and do what I do on behalf of the children and the people of this community,” Huckabee said. “People should know by now that I’m always going to do what’s right and I’m always going to advocate for what’s right.”
“Expect to see me at the school board meetings,” Cook said. “I think I’ve built a lot of relationships with everyone on the board and with the candidates. Hopefully I can build on those relationships and help in any way that I can.”
Marilyn Thomas contributed information to this story.