Kaupas has advantage in Will sheriff race

The two Republican candidates for Will County sheriff stood on opposite sides of a room Tuesday morning watching 10 teams of election judges count all of the provisional and absentee ballots from the March 18 primary election.

After more than two hours of verifying and counting 135 provisional and more than 250 absentee ballots, candidate Ken Kaupas, who held a small lead after the primary, had gained a margin of one more vote over opponent Nick Ficarello.

The votes from Tuesday’s count at the county building in Joliet were nearly evenly split between the two candidates, further demonstrating the closeness of the race,

The unofficial totals now show Kaupas with 20,521 votes and Ficarello with 20,297. The figures remain unofficial until April 8 when the votes will be canvassed and the totals from the Will County precincts under the Aurora Election Commission will be factored in, Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots said.

The provisional ballots — those for which the voter’s registration needed clarification — included 32 votes for Kaupas and 31 for Ficarello. The valid absentee ballots gave them exactly 101 more votes apiece.

“I am obviously very pleased with today’s results, but I’m not surprised,” Kaupas said. “It’s really remarkable to go through all this and pick up one vote. It was a very, very tough race. Neither of us expected it to be this close.”

Although the totals do not include a few Aurora precincts, Kaupas said he seriously doubted that those votes would make a difference.

“It’s mathematically improbable,” he said.

Unofficial totals from the Aurora Election Commission have Kaupas with 177 votes and Ficarello with 176.

Ficarello still was not conceding the race, despite the latest tally.

“I have some decisions to make,” he said quietly, adding that he would consult with his attorney and his campaign staff.

Those options include seeking a recount or running as an independent candidate in the fall.

Kaupas said his goal heading into the November election, when he will face Democrat Mike Kelley, will be to “rally the Republicans.” He said he “certainly” would welcome Ficarello’s support.

For now, Kaupas and Kelley still have to work together in the sheriff’s department, where Kelley is a lieutenant and Kaupas is deputy chief.

“I take off my political hat when I come to work,” Kaupas said, adding that he believes they can put politics aside and “continue to do our jobs.”