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Bloomington voters choose Mwilambwe to become the city’s next mayor

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Mboka Mwilambwe (City of Bloomington photo)

BLOOMINGTON (WEEK) - Bloomington voters made history Tuesday electing its first person of color to lead the city.

 Alderman Mboka Mwilambwe won a three-way race to replace Tari Renner who chose not to run for a third term as mayor.  

Mwilambwe, who's been on the city council since 2011, defeated progressive candidate Jackie Gunderson and Mike Straza, who won the endorsement of the Responsible Cities political action committee, which supported who they believed were moderate candidates in Bloomington and Normal.

Mwilambwe received 4,455 votes or almost 39% of the vote. He led Straza by 207 votes. Straza garnered almost 37% of the vote, while Gunderson received 24%.

The executive director of the Bloomington Election Commission, Tim Mitchell, said the office expected to receive about 140 more mail-in ballots, which is not enough for Straza to catch up to Mwilambwe's total.

Mwilambwe's victory was a setback for supporters of a proposed Welcoming Cities resolution, which would place restrictions on local police cooperation with federal ICE agents looking to deport undocumented immigrants.  Gunderson was the only mayoral candidate supporting resolution. 

Mwilambwe was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and his family moved to the Ivory Coast in 1977 where his father worked for the United Nations Children's Fund, also known as UNICEF. 

Mwilambwe moved to the United States and graduated from Illinois State University in 1994.  He's now employed with ISU's Office of Equal Opportunity and Access.

Straza described himself as a entrepreneur devoted to lure business to the community to boost the local economy.  

Howard Packowitz

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