Quick Hits: December 6, 2017

A sad sight to see

As I’ve previously explained, despite whatever my “fan club” might say (And they do say it!), my regular critiques of local papers aren’t a matter of spite, they’re an effort to get those folks to wake up and dispense with the Einsteinian definition of insanity.

Considering the current climate, we need solid local journalism now more than ever.

But, as is almost always the inexorable local newspaper death march case, those prospects just dimmed a bit more as the Elgin Courier-News quietly cut back to three print editions a week – Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.


And we all know going Net only isn’t an option, because those ads don’t bring in one-tenth of their print counterparts. But what I don’t get is, why would the Tribune (Tronc) purchase these former Sun-Times properties only to watch them bleed out?

Considering the lack of any real Elgin competition, had Tronc put any effort or even a meager amount of cash into their new holding, it would’ve stabilized the situation, and perhaps even reversed it.

But letting them twist in the wind like this has made their intentions abundantly clear.

So, to all the folks who worked so hard to make the Courier-News what it once was – Mike Bailey, Paul Harth, Dave Gathman among so many others – I feel your pain. It’s sad to see a once vibrant newspaper simply fade away.


The worst kept secret in Kane County

As The First Ward predicted (though I got the judge wrong a couple of times), former Kane County State’s Attorney and 16th Circuit Judge David Akemann filed his retirement paperwork with the Illinois Supreme Court on Monday, the last day that would trigger a circuit-wide judicial primary.


Had His Honor filed those documents a scant day later, the Supreme Court would’ve had to appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the next even-year election. But since judges can’t keep any secret whatsoever, everyone was aware that one of ‘em was gonna bow out at the last minute.

Given the plethora of entries in this newly necessary election, I can’t say for sure who was intended to be the beneficiary of Akemann’s suspect timing largesse, but if I was a betting man, I’d say it was Associate Judge Betsy Flood, who seemed to know the specific details about this impending vacancy before anyone else did.

The advantage of that early warning is, the in-the-know candidate could assemble a campaign team and have them ready to hit the ground running to get the required 500 signatures by 12/28 – not an easy thing to do over the holidays.

Of course, my sources at the Illinois State Board of Elections and Supreme Court immediately informed me of this development, and I in turn, made Circuit Clerk Tom Hartwell and almost former head KCSAO juvenile prosecutor, Lark Cowart, aware as well.

So, they’re well on their way to submitting their nominating paperwork as we speak.

The Republican contestants beyond Hartwell include, Judge David Kliment, and the aforementioned Judge Flood.


Considering Kliment sentenced an 18 year-old who firebombed two separate properties to just 15 days, the only real GOP choice is Tom Hartwell. Having been invited to be a part of his campaign team, I will be working diligently on his behalf.

Though I tried to convince her to run as a Republican, Cowart will face former Elgin State Senator Mike Noland in the Democratic primary. You remember Mike! He’s the guy who:

  • Got thrown out of a Carpentersville polling place by the police
  • Got stopped for speeding while he had a ticket for no insurance
  • Got caught stealing his opponent’s yard signs red-handed, and best of all
  • Got caught plagiarizing a JFK speech on the Springfield Senate floor

Trust me, the last thing we need is John Dalton and Mike Noland as sitting 16th Circuit judges. That prospect frightens me even more than Donald Trump carrying the nuclear football.

BTW, one of the reasons Lark Cowart is one of my favorite people on the planet is she sticks to her guns no matter what the personal cost. She too, would make an ideal judge.

Given my predilection toward prognostication, Hartwell will win the Republican nomination and Cowart will easily dispense with Noland. Then, as that great philosopher and staunch Cubs fan Tom Hartwell said, “Let the chips fall where they may.”


Methinks he doth protest too much

When news of his sudden retirement hit the press, Judge Akemann was quoted as saying:

I felt quite strongly I wanted to give everyone interested an opportunity to run and let the people decide on their next judge. It’s time to move on to something else. It’s a privilege and an honor and will remain so to serve as a judge.”


Judge David Akemann

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked David and I’ve always enjoyed our journalistic conversations – he has a great legal mind. But as my favorite TV Judge likes to say, “Not even you believe yourself.” Well, either that or, “I wouldn’t believe you if your tongue came notarized.”

So, what the Judge is saying is he “accidentally” retired on the last day to launch a primary? Oh no he didn’t! Had Akemann truly wanted a level playing field, he would’ve stepped down BEFORE November 13, which would’ve given everyone an ample opportunity to truly compete.

And he knew he was going to retire as early as September.

To quote that great philosopher, Paul Simon, “Who do you think you’re foolin?”


An ethical canon conundrum

I bet most of you weren’t aware of this, but running a judicial race requires a specific kind of candidate comportment. To wit:

  • Beyond their legal or judicial track records, they cannot speak ill of an opponent – even through third parties.
  • They cannot raise campaign funds directly, they must appoint a fundraising committee.
  • They cannot take a contribution that would create any kind of conflict of interest.
  • They cannot engage in any behavior that would reflect poorly on the judiciary.
  • They cannot put the word “judge” before their name or wear a black robe on any campaign material unless they actually are a judge

And the stakes are pretty high, too! Any violation of those precepts can result in disbarment, which makes it impossible to serve as a judge.

Though I won’t name names, (Mike Noland), I’m convinced some of our candidates won’t abide by those stipulations.


Mike Noland

So, to quote an infamous president, let me make this perfectly clear. I’ve asked my spies, and they are everywhere, to report back any instance of direct fundraising by any candidate, which will immediately be reported to the Judicial Inquiry Board or Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

That will mean the swift end of that candidate’s campaign. So let’s all behave, shall we!

Quick Hits – December 4, 2017

Local race roundup – Part three

Alright readers! We’re heading into the home stretch with the second half of the Kane County board open seats analysis and one other interesting issue. So, without further ado:


District 13

This one pits three-term Republican incumbent, Phil Lewis, against primary opponent Steve Weber, also of St. Charles.

Like I’ve previously said, three terms is more than enough for any board member and, considering his long tenure, Lewis still fails to grasp the basic rules of order, any Kane County political or financial reality, and some of the stuff he comes up with makes you want to bang your head against the nearest wall.

There’s the monorail, his bizarre plan for randomly cutting county staff, and he continues to cling to a doomed-to-fail building permit fee increase as the panacea for the recent budget cuts. To say he’s in over his head after 12 years would be the mildest of understatements. I don’t dislike Phil, but he’s become a political embarrassment and it’s time for him to go.

The thing is, it’s virtually impossible to beat a Lewis in St. Charles, and while he’s certainly aggravated his peers, he hasn’t done anything to directly aggravate the voters, because they’re generally not that smart either.

If anyone does have a shot, it would be Weber, who’s backed by Chairman Chris Lauzen. And though I still believe chairmen should avoid trying to unseat board members, this is the one case where I’m more than OK with it.

I’d actually like my board member to actually be able accomplish something.

There is no Democratic candidate in this demonstrably Republican district.


District 15

Let’s move on to this Campton Hills based district in which five-term incumbent Barb Wojnicki has two Republican primary opponents, Robert Koonce and Austin Lawler. This three-way dynamic, of course, virtually guarantees her reelection.

With Lauzen supporting Koonce and Lawler’s late Friday afternoon entry, my suspicion was Wojnicki “encouraged” Lawler to enter the race as a “spoiler” who would split any vote against her. This morning, when I saw that Lawler’s signature sheets were notarized by 16th District board member, Mike Kenyon, those suspicions were confirmed.

The irony is, under former Chairman Karen McConnaughay’s reign, Wojnicki and Kenyon were on vastly different sides of the political fence. But when Kenyon got the Forest Preserve chairmanship over Wojnicki, she and Chairman Lauzen started drifting apart.

Enter Kenyon who, tired of being in the anti-Lauzen board minority, is helping a former enemy on the basis of her willingness to more frequently break from the Chairman. Those shifting political sands certainly make for some rather strange bedfellows, don’t they?

So the Chairman set up a Wojnicki primary opponent only to be trumped by another savvy political move. Though it means giving up that coveted first ballot spot, there’s often merit in waiting until the last minute to turn in your paperwork – it eliminates spoilers.

The thing is, though I’ve always liked Barb, the county board wasn’t meant to become a career. Like I said, she’s already served five terms, becoming less effective with each one. It’s time to give someone else a shot.

And former nuclear submarine captain Koonce is a magnificent candidate.

But between her successful opposition to the proposed Maxxam rehab center and two primary opponents, Wojnicki will easily win a sixth term.

Meanwhile, in a clear case of political insanity, two Democratic contenders have entered the 15th District fray, Gerald Palmere of Elgin and Lucas Strom of Maple Park. While I certainly applaud the intestinal fortitude of anyone willing to throw their hat in the ring, and I’ve learned that Mr. Strom is an excellent candidate, no Democrat will EVER win any Campton Hills based seat of any kind.

I hope I wasn’t too subtle there.


District 17

Now, we swing around to Elgin where four-term incumbent Deb Allen faces newcomer Janice Bennett in the Democratic primary.

Once again, four terms is one too many (and Deb really isn’t a Democrat), but Bennett is supported by that wacky Elgin Township Democrat group, who are, in turn, supported by the former State Senator Mike Noland, Judge John Dalton and legend in his own mind, Rich Jacobs, posse.

And the last thing we need is any more of that group in any government position anywhere. But my opinion is immaterial here, because no one’s gonna beat Deb Allen – EVER!

She successfully switched parties when her district was remapped, something most candidates can’t pull off on their best day. She’s also a tireless worker who actually likes knocking on doors, and as I note in my impending ‘So You Wanna Win a Local Election’ book, Deb is the politest politician I’ve ever met.

And that’s an unbeatable combination.

She’s so engaging and so nice that, after one brief meeting with Deb, you’ll offer to start mowing her lawn for free.

There’s no Republican challenger in the heavily Democratic 17th District.


District 19

This northern Kane County district features two-term incumbent Kurt Kojzarek on the Republican side, and three Democratic candidates – Mohammed ‘Mo’ Iqbal, John ‘Jack’ Shales and Thomas Gibbons.

Iqbal has absolutely no shot because, having run for almost everything else and lost, he’s been tagged with the dreaded “perennial candidate” label. His name doesn’t help him either. Before you call me a racist, yet again, I don’t make the rules, I just report them.

Though the Shales name carries some weight in Elgin (Shales Parkway), John Shales is only distantly related to his more famous family member, Jack. His father, Jim, also ran for a number of offices, including county board, and lost. So, the “perennial candidate” albatross will likely hang around his neck as well.

He may be able to find his way out of this primary field, but he’ll never beat someone of Kojzarek’s campaign caliber in that still Republican district.

Other than the fact he lives in Elgin, I don’t know Mr. Gibbons, but considering his competition, if he works hard enough, he could just as easily win the Democratic nomination.

Meanwhile, Kojzarek ranks right up there with John Hoscheit and John Martin as one of the most effective Kane County Board members I’ve ever seen. He deserves a third shot after which he will likely aim a little bit higher.


District 21

With Becky Gillam stepping down, Gilbert’s Cliff Surges is the only Republican in the running, as is Democratic Dundee Township resident Tara Jacobsen.

If you recall, Surges did reasonably well against former Kane County Chairman Karen McConnaughay in the then newly formed 33rd State Senate District, so he shouldn’t have much of a problem here.

That doesn’t mean I’m casting any aspersions in Ms. Jacobsen’s direction. Even with her staunch anti-Longmeadow Parkway bridge platform, it will be very difficult for any Democrat to win against a reasonable GOP candidate in that generally Republican district.


District 23

Phew! The last one!

Maggie Auger is also stepping down, which opens the door to Republicans Jim Patrician of Algonquin and Jonathan Radke of Carpentersville. Algonquin resident Christopher Kious is the lone Democratic entry.

This may be the only Kane County Board district in which either political party has a shot and, since I really don’t know any of these candidates, this race will likely go to the one who works the hardest. And from the number of signatures they acquired, it looks like Mr. Radke might have the upper campaign work ethic hand.


Either tomorrow or Wednesday…

Despite warning the men and women in black that I was onto them, I’d bet my life savings that Judge David Akemann will retire today, which will trigger a countywide judicial primary, which is leading to a very interesting primary field.

We’ll cover those festivities either on a special Tuesday Quick Hits or on Wednesday.


Quick Hits – December 1, 2017

Local race roundup – Part two

Having covered the countywide and judicial races on Wednesday, let’s move on to the Kane County Board contests, because there certainly are plenty of them, In fact, with all of the odd numbered district seats up in 2018, none of ‘em failed to generate some sort of challenger.

And the applicable phrase for these electoral showdowns, boys and girls, is “proxy war!” Can you say “proxy war?” I knew you could!


District 1

This Aurora District pits two-term incumbent Myrna Molina against challenger Blanca Rodriguez.

Molina is a rather unique and quiet board member whom I’ve never quite been able to figure out. But since every board needs that kind of dimension, I’ve never had a problem with her, either. She also has a razor sharp wit which I’ve always appreciated.

Meanwhile, Ms. Rodriguez, who generally votes in presidential election cycles only, is clearly supported by Chairman Chris Lauzen. How do I know this? Her nominating petition signature sheets are signed and notarized the political operative with whom Lauzen tends to work.

But when you add Molina’s incumbency to the fact that most folks really don’t care about who their county board member is, if she’s willing to work the district, Myrna will run away with it.

Chris! If you’re going to run candidates against sitting board members, a practice I don’t recommend, you really shouldn’t be this obvious about it. It always motivates the other side.

By the way, there’s no Republican candidate in this one.


District 3

This is another Aurora race with incumbent Don Ishmael facing challenger Anita Marie Lewis.

Considering how much the gig aggravates him, I can’t imagine why Ishmael, my Chinese Jewish brother from another mother, would want to endure a second round, but he does. I appreciate Don’s ornery temperament (the world needs a lot more ornery), but it doesn’t work well in the kind of governing body that always requires a consensus

That said, the curious thing about Lewis is, not only do the Party databases tag her as a “Strong Republican,” an appellation that’s hard to earn, but she’s pulled a GOP ballot in every primary since 2006. That hasn’t stopped her from running a Democrat, however.

So, I firmly believe the Chairman is behind her candidacy as well.

The bottom line is, Ishmael is one of the few board Kane County politicians who truly knows how to campaign, so if he wants it, the seat is his.

Again, there’s no Republican candidate in this race.


District 5

Incumbent Bill Lennert will face Democrat Sandra King in November. I’m ready to call this one for Lennert right now because, all Trump bullshit aside, no Democrat will EVER will this Sugar Grove and Big Rock county board district.

Please understand, I have nothing against Ms. King and I applaud her for running. It’s just that you can’t ignore some political realities.

Bill’s done a pretty good job, too.


District 7

We’re back in Aurora again with two-term incumbent Monica Silva being challenged by the politically active Brian Gravenhorst who, according to his very lengthy voting record, is even more Republican than Ms. Lewis is.

So, we all know who’s supporting him in this Democratic primary.

I’ve always been fond of Monica and I’ve watched her grow into the kind of strong, independent, Latina board member that we could certainly use a few more of. But sadly, after a few disagreements, with the Chairman, he’s targeting her, too.

Aside from not being a Democrat, the most interesting thing about Gravenhorst is he got none of his own signatures, which doesn’t bode well for his work ethic. If Monica knocks on the right doors (and, trust me, she will), that third term will be hers.

There’s no Republican candidate in this one either.


District 9

Now we’re headed all the way out to Hampshire, Burlington and Pingree Grove. With incumbent T. R. Smith term-limiting himself after three rounds, we have two new Republican faces entering the fray, Tom Koppie and Connie Von Keudell.

Once again, you can tell from that notary stamp that Koppie, a former Rutland Township road commissioner, is Chairman Lauzens choice, and I will give him credit for getting all of his 82 signatures himself.

Von Keudell is a former Chairman Karen McConnaughay holdout whose shown no capacity to win an election or comport herself in anything close to the kind of political manner that gets results. The last thing Kane County needs is to go back to the days of my favorite pay-to-play chairman.

With Smith’s endorsement – especially in Del Webb – considering his work ethic, Koppie should win.

Since no Democrat could win this district, none is running!


District 11

Board member John Martin is running against Democratic newcomer Jody Kalikula. Again, I harbor no ill will towards Ms. Kalikula, but John has proven to be one of the best board members I’ve ever encountered anywhere and there’s no way a Democrat wins in that Geneva based district.

John has clearly earned a second term.


Yikes! With the LSAT looming large tomorrow and relaxation the order of my day, it looks like we’ll have to save the second half of the County Board race analysis for Monday. Until then!


Say it ain’t so Lark!

C’mon! The good guys shouldn’t resign!

Head Kane County Juvenile prosecutor, Lark Cowart, a 14 year KCSAO staffer, just gave her notice today. She will stay on as long as necessary to ensure a smooth transition.


As my regular readers know, I hold Ms. Cowart in the highest esteem and frequently point to her as an example of the best our State’s Attorney’s office has to offer.

She is a brilliant attorney, one of the most perceptive people I’ve ever met, she actually has a conscience, but most of all, she has a heart in system that doesn’t reward having a heart. She’s so dedicated to Kane County children that she’s regularly worked on the kind of abuse cases that would reduce most of us to a pile of microwaved Jello.

Her commitment to real justice is one of the reasons I’m going to law school. In fact, I’ve been so blown away by her right-end-of-the-bell-curve competence, that I’ve successfully recruited her to run for judge – when the time is right. And she’ll be a bleepin’ great judge.

In the end, Lark Cowart’s sanity gain, is Kane County’s massive loss. She is truly irreplaceable.