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Trump-supporting mayor appears to survive re-election scare

In this April 21, 2014 photo, Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar speaks at the State of Illinois building in Chicago. Claar has been mayor of Bolingbrook for more than three decades, but faces a spirited challenge from union organizer, Jackie Traynere in the Tuesday April 4, 2017 election. (Brian Jackson /Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

CHICAGO (AP) — A longtime suburban Chicago mayor who held a fundraiser for President Donald Trump last year has expanded his narrow lead in his re-election battle with a union organizer backed by top Democrats.

With all precincts reporting Wednesday, Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar held a 104-vote lead over Will County Commissioner Jackie Traynere. The vote tally will be made official April 25 after the vote by mail ballots postmarked by April 4 and provisional ballots are counted. The county clerk’s office said there are no more than about 400 of those votes to be counted, and Traynere spokesman Tom Bowen did not hold out much hope she could overtake Claar.

“It’s an uphill climb,” he said. “Jackie has called Roger to congratulate him.”

Still, after supporting Trump, a 104-vote lead in a race in which about 12,500 votes were cast was a far different experience for a mayor who has been in office since 1986 and whose last three elections came after running unopposed or against write-in candidates.

Claar did not return telephone calls from the Associated Press seeking comment late Tuesday or on Wednesday. However, he told the Chicago Tribune his tight race against Traynere may mean there will be problems for the Republican Party in 2018.

“It’s very troublesome that the civil unrest is taking place across this country and showing up at the ballot box,” said Claar, a member of the Illinois Republican State Central Committee. “The unrest in Washington continues, and unless there’s some real economic indicators or some home runs hit (by the White House and the GOP), it’s going to be problematic in ’18, and I don’t know what that home run would be.”

Claar hosted a fundraiser for Trump in September, which angered some voters in the suburb of about 75,000 people. As a result, support for Traynere poured in from top Democrats nationwide, including from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and a group spun out of the campaign of former Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.

The municipal contest was seen as an early test of whether local candidates who supported Trump in last year’s blistering presidential election face backlash at the polls.

Traynere said Trump’s visit to the community roughly 30 miles from Chicago “opened a door of opportunity that we wouldn’t have had.”

“There’s clearly something in the air for change,” Traynere said.

Claar previously dismissed the situation in Bolingbrook, saying Democrats are “trying to take over” and that partisan politics shouldn’t be a factor in the race. His tenure has seen major development and growth in Bolingbrook.

The municipal contest is technically nonpartisan. But concerns raised in the presidential campaign and initial months of Trump’s tenure have hit home in the racially diverse community with two mosques and where at least 20 percent of the community is foreign born.

More than 1,000 people signed a petition asking Claar not to hold the Trump fundraiser, noting the Republican’s derogatory comments about immigrants, Muslims and women. Claar was also a Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention. In November, the community backed Hillary Clinton with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Turnout is typically low in such municipal contests where voters weigh in on local offices like assessor and county commissioner.

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Follow Sophia Tareen on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sophiatareen

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