Local race roundup – Part One
As is traditional here at The First Ward, with the first of the 2018 nominating petitions in the hopper, let’s review the impending Kane County electoral battlegrounds as they stand right now.
This is currently the most contested major local race with primaries in both parties. And all of the contestants come from the same office. Incumbent Don Kramer will face Deputy Sergeant Kevin Tindall on the Republican side, with Sergeant Ron Hain and Lieutenant Willie Mayes squaring off for the Democratic nomination.
Considering that Kramer blew out his budget just two weeks in office, the continuing fallout from the Delnor hostage debacle, and the Sheriff is frequently heard saying “I don’t need this,” I’m kinda surprised he’s shooting for a second term.
But make no mistake, while that office has clearly challenged Kramer’s leadership capacity, he is a tireless campaigner who can never be counted out. Those 215 signatures sheets, the most I’ve ever seen from any Kane Countywide candidate, clearly prove that point.
That said, though we know taking on an incumbent is always an uphill climb, Tindall is very well-liked, he appears to be up to the challenge and he has no political baggage. The key to his campaign success will be who he choose for his campaign team.
On the Dem side, though he hasn’t turned in his nominating papers, Mayes will take a second bite of the electoral apple after a dismal 34 point showing against Kramer in 2014. I am surprised Mayes conceded the coveted first ballot spot to Hain, but there is a school of thought that says turning in your signatures sheets at the last minute makes it more difficult for an opponent to mount any kind of a challenge.
Meanwhile, Hain, who needed just 518 signatures, amassed over 1600 to match Kramer percentage step for percentage step. (Republican candidates needed 726.) Clearly, neither one of these candidates will be outworked, but if I had to pick a winner (and I do happen to have a stake in this one), it will come down to Hain and Kramer, with Hain pulling it off on the basis of a truly solid Sheriff’s office platform.
2. County Clerk
The Republican primary pits four-term incumbent Jack Cunningham against his former Chief Deputy and Montgomery village trustee Stan Bond. There is no Democratic challenger at this point and I don’t think that will change.
To quote a frequent First Ward metaphor, this contest is pretty damn close to that choice between Scylla and Charybdis.
First, no one should serve more than four terms in any office. Second, not only is Cunningham recovering from colon cancer surgery, but five separate sources told me he’s suffering from the kind of dementia he can no longer hide.
Given the stress involved in running that office, if Cunningham is reelected, I don’t see him serving the entire term. That said, having worked for Cunningham and with Bond for 1.5 years, I don’t think Stan can run that office.
To wit, Republicans regularly ask county board member Kurt Kojzarek to take a shot at that gig, but Kurt’s smart enough to immediately call me to talk him out of it – and that’s never a difficult endeavor.
Considering the clerk’s Responsibilities – elections, vital records and all the county records – it’s more difficult than anything the sheriff, circuit clerk or chairman have to contend with. I wouldn’t want that job for twice the $100k salary.
So in the end, Cunningham will win a fifth term on the basis of:
- His incredible name recognition.
- Elections have run smoothly even after the departure of Director of Elections Suzanne Fahnestock.
- With his particularly egregious 2015 tax error a distant memory, there’s no issue to separate the candidates.
- Bond’s campaign manager loses at least 80 percent of his races and generally resorts to the kind of dirty tricks that hurt his candidates far more often than they help.
3. The Judges
I’ve already extended my congratulations to Clint Hull and Rene Cruz regarding their swift judicial victories, but, of course, both correctly countered that, since the filing period runs through December 4, it’s far too soon to start celebrating.
Should no one else apply, the applicable Party could slate a candidate, but they’d have to be an attorney and they’d still have to come up with at least 500 signatures. Since no Democrat could win in Hull’s Fourth St. Charles Subcircuit and a Republican couldn’t get 20 percent of the vote in Cruz’ Aurora-based First Subcircuit, that’s not gonna happen.
Given that the average voter’s judicial ADHD means the first ballot spot can confer a 5 point out-of-the-gate margin, the fat lady’s already singing this one out!
The good news is, Cruz and Hull will continue to do Kane County proud. Congratulations Your Honors!
4. More to come
On Friday, we’ll cover all the county board races. There’s a lot of competition there folks!
And speaking of judges…
There has been a semi-widely reported rumor that a 16th Circuit judge will retire at the last minute to give his protégé a leg up on the limited electoral window that kind of sudden abdication provides.
And it could still happen.
Were one of our men or women in black to step down by December 4, it would trigger a 2018 countywide primary in which the hopefuls would have to acquire at least 500 signatures between December 18 and 26.
Trying to mobilize the volunteers required to get the recommended 1,000 signers in a week is no easy task any time of the year, but it’s exponentially more difficult over the Christmas holiday. So, if some lucky contender knew about this vacancy beforehand, they’d be prepared to hit the ground running.
I do have some thoughts as to whom the next retiring judge will be, but I’ll keep them to myself for now. The most frequently mentioned “lucky” candidate was Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress, but if that was the case, it’s not anymore.
Meanwhile Betsy Flood, another great judge, has made it abundantly clear that she’ll run for the next circuit-wide opening, and Judge Robert Villa seems to have similar sentiments. Though I don’t believe either one of them are in on this backroom deal.
What I can tell our judicial timing schemers is – if they actually exist – there are two candidates poised to set loose the kind of ground game that could get those signatures in a mere five days.
And rest assured, the State Board of Elections will make me aware of any 16th Circuit judicial vacancy the second it comes through the Illinois Supreme Court. You see, I’m looking forward to adding some names to that previously published list of good Kane County judges (and removing others from the bench entirely).