Well, you can’t say the Rock Island mayoral race has been boring.

What was shaping up to be a genteel competition just a few weeks ago heated up in a huge way over the past three weeks leading up to today’s election.

Not so much in the mayoral forums, which were contentious but largely civil. But in the campaign races on social media and elsewhere things got pretty heated between supporters of the candidates and there were some intriguing lines drawn between the four candidates – Andy Rowe, Stephen Tollenaer, Mike Thoms and Terry Brooks.

Of course, all of the four have stepped up the competition. You’re seeing more signs in yards and more ads across the media — including here on QuadCities.com, where all four candidates were offered the same ad purchase opportunity at the same rate and Tollenaer bought a front page banner ad.

Speaking of, one of the more interesting media buys was an attack on Tollenaer, which came through direct mail. A flier directly slamming Tollenaer was dropped in mailboxes last week. I was one of presumably thousands of voters who got the flier.

What’s interesting is that the flier ONLY attacked Tollenaer. That’s interesting to me because there are four candidates in the race. The flier was attributed to some vague special interest group rather than one of the other candidates, and it’s an absolute certainty that all three of the other guys didn’t team up just to take down Tollenaer. No, this is a one-on-one attack from one of the other candidates directed specifically towards Tollenaer.

When only one is attacked, that signifies to me that an opponent has done some sort of polling or research that shows that Tollenaer is his primary competition and that Tollenaer is obviously polling well. You don’t attack someone if they’re trailing far behind in a race. What’s the point in spending the big money of doing a full-color mailer out to voters to knock a guy who’s polling poorly?

Which candidate was the one that paid for (or had his proxies pay for) the direct mail fliers? I can’t say for sure. But I can guess it probably wasn’t Brooks.

Brooks is the only one of the four which hasn’t seemed to really be a part of the extracurriculars going on in the days leading up to the race. He hasn’t been attacked nor has he attacked anyone else as far as I can tell. But to be honest, having interviewed all of the candidates, Brooks staying out of that fray doesn’t surprise me. If you listen to his conversations with me on my podcast on this site, QCUncut, even when offered a question about his differences with his competition, Brooks pretty much demurred on criticizing them, instead sticking to his focus on his own campaign.https://www.quadcities.com/shows/qc-uncut-mike-thoms/

Was it Thoms or Rowe? Hard to tell, but it’s not difficult to see that both have been competing hard against each other online and the battle has been drawn along partisan lines.

While this is a non-partisan election and I can honestly say in interviewing all of the candidates, their positions and opinions were largely non-partisan in tone, in the past few weeks, the lines have been drawn in blue and red.

In the middle and out of this fray have been Brooks and Tollenaer.

But on one side, we’ve seen the Democrats making quite sure, with multiple ads running heavily on social media, that Thoms is identified as a Republican. And likewise that Rowe is identified as a Democrat.

One of the ads features the names of a number of prominent area Democrats who have endorsed Rowe. Another ad talks about how Thoms is a longtime Republican and has worked with the area party.

I’ve yet to see any anti-Rowe ads (that’s not saying there aren’t any, merely that I haven’t seen them) but obviously there has been chatter in my news feed from supporters of both candidates and some of it has been drawn along party lines.

Again, I find this interesting because in interviewing both men, I didn’t find either of them especially wed to hardcore partisan stances. Certainly, Thoms is pro-business, but then again, so is Rowe. Both of them talked about the need to bring in new money to the city through sales tax. Both of them talked about the need to bring in both big and small businesses and retail. And both talked about the need to revitalize the downtown and 11th street.

To me, this is not a particularly partisan election. But, when you’re competing, you’re going to try to get the edge. That’s politics. Both men know it, both men are trying their hardest to win. And isn’t that what you want in your candidates? You want someone passionate enough about the job, about the city, about the position that they’re going to fight for it.

Well, we’ve got that battle on our hands.

And it’s been a good competition.

As I wrote in an earlier column, I, and we at our website, did not offer a formal endorsement of any of the candidates. We stand by that position. I think all four men are good people and good candidates and any one of them will make a good mayor.

But today YOU get to choose.

Vote for the man YOU think will do the best job and who best reflects your own values and vision for the future of the city.

Listen to all of our QCUncut podcasts here on QuadCities.com. Research the candidates. Find the one that best matches YOUR beliefs. And then get out and vote!

I’m not making any predictions on the winner, but I do have a feeling that this is going to end up being an extremely close race. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, it certainly won’t be the first time that’s happened! But if the heat of competition that’s been rising over the last few weeks of the campaign is any indication, it’s anyone’s race at this point, and whoever wins is going to have earned it after a hard-fought competition.

I’m hoping that whoever does win reaches out to those who came up short and that together, they can continue to work in unison to help bring Rock Island to the pinnacle of its potential.

Good luck to all, and congratulations on a good, hard-fought race.


Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.