Former Bettendorf department head Bill Connors emerged as the victor in a four-way race to fill a vacant city council seat on March 5, comfortably beating his opponents in a low-turnout election with the next-best contender trailing by nearly 38 percentage points.
The special election, called to replace the late Debe LaMar to represent the city’s 3rd Ward, has been a relatively quiet one compared to the regular municipal election season. In all, 258 of the area’s estimated 5,100 eligible voters cast ballots, a turnout of roughly 5.6 percent.
Connors did not answer phone calls or text messages requesting comment late Tuesday. Earlier in the day, he planned to watch the election results come in with supporters at the Palmer Hills Golf Course clubhouse after the polls closed at 8 p.m.
A man who’s already well-known around City Hall, Connors spent more than 20 years as a city employee, eventually leading the city’s community development department. He retired in April along with more than a dozen other longtime employees under a buyout program that city officials put forward to meet a $1.3 million budget shortfall.
In an earlier interview, Connors said he’s grateful for his long career in city government and wants the opportunity to give back to his community.
“I want to be able to help the residents of the city,” Connors said. “I want to be responsive to their needs. If people have concerns or issues in the 3rd Ward, I want to be there for them.”
Connors ran a more visible campaign compared to his three challengers, gaining endorsements and financial support from former elected officials and area business leaders. Among those endorsing his candidacy were the Quad-Cities Builders & Remodelers Association and the Associated General Contractors of the Quad-Cities.
“I know him to be a level-headed professional who puts the city's and citizen's interests ahead of all other concerns,” Mike Freemire, the city’s mayor from 2004 until 2012, wrote in a letter that appeared in the Quad-City Times early last month.
Connors was also the only candidate to create an official campaign committee in the race. During the month of February, he raised nearly $4,000 for his bid from a little more than a dozen contributors, according to a recent filing with the state's campaign disclosure board.
Nearly all of Connors' donors were real estate developers, former city officials and local business owners.
Connors will be the first new face to represent the southeast-side ward in more than 20 years. Lamar, the former alderwoman, died in November after she had long been ill with cancer.
The special election was held to fulfill the remainder of LaMar’s unexpired term, which ends this year. Connors will have to stand for election again in November if he wants to stay on the council, something he has already said he’ll do.
In the special election, Connors faced Don Wells, the vice chairman of Bettendorf’s parks and recreation board; Richard “Dick” Frantz, a retired machinist with the Rock Island Arsenal; and Tom Luton, a retired schoolteacher and former member of Bettendorf’s school board. Connors won 55.4 percent of the vote, followed by Luton with 17.9 percent; Frantz with 13.7 percent and Wells with 11.9 percent.