Quick Hits – December 11, 2017

A few good candidates?

Apparently, that’s too much to ask, because when I look at the gaggle running for Illinois governor, I automatically reach for two or three Xanax.

Bruce Rauner has been a dismal failure at a time Illinois can’t afford another dismal failure. Considering that the National Review just called him “the worst Republican governor in the country,” I’m actually starting to feel somewhat sorry for him, but not sorry enough to shed a tear when the voters inevitably send him packing.

Oh! And apparently he’s not in charge, either.


State Rep Jeanne Ives is, once again, going out of her way to prove that Republicans can’t let go of the social issues that consistently doom their electoral hopes in this solidly purple state. She may make it out of the GOP primary, but she has absolutely no shot against whomever the Democratic nominee might be.

And speaking of Democratic nominees, that’s exactly what J. B. Pritzker will be, but to quote the great Harry Chapin, “He’s nothing yet to make the folks write home.” The only reason Pritzker is leading this sad Democratic pack is he has more money than any of the other contestants.

His entire platform, “I’m not Donald Trump” and “I’m not Governor Rauner who is Donald Trump,” hardly builds much confidence. Granted, platitudes tend to win campaigns, but I’d like some idea of how he plans to work with Mike Madigan to pull us back from the fiscal abyss.

Can anyone tell me why Chris Kennedy is running? Even he doesn’t seem too terribly excited about it. Considering his money and the family name, his may well be the worst gubernatorial campaign I’ve ever seen.

Scott Lee Cohen with his “I didn’t know my girlfriend was a prostitute” slogan ran a better race than Kennedy has.

Daniel Biss? Though I’ve heard he’s actually a decent candidate, if you can’t get the running mate part right, what makes you think we should trust you to run the state?

All I can say is, God help the Land of Lincoln!


It gets worse

Given their abysmal track records, there’s nothing more I’d like to see than 14th District Congressman Randy Hultgren and his 6th District counterpart, Peter Roskam, be sent home by the voters – to some other state. But despite the current Trump solicited Republican vulnerability, neither possibility will come to pass.

Why not you ask? Because there are seven Dems running for Roskam’s seat and five are taking a crack at Hultgen.


Not only is it incredibly difficult to find your way out of that kind of primary pack, but if you do, you’ll have burned whatever limited campaign funds you have, and your message tends to get lost in the crowd. And if any of them go negative before March 20, a likely possibility, they’re only doing the Republicans’ dirty work.

Meanwhile, with no primary challengers, Hultgren and Roskam simply get to sit back and watch the festivities.

My fondest wish is that the Illinois Democrats could’ve somehow picked the two candidates most likely to pick our errant Congressmen off. Beyond the basic pack mentality problem, most of them have absolutely no shot at winning those seats in two generally Republican districts.

When you consider the time, effort and money that goes into a Congressional campaign, it’s hard to watch these hopefuls bang their heads against the political wall.

I’ve said it before! Not all backroom deals are bad. The problem is, the Republican Party is much better at this game and, until the national Democrats catch up, Roskam and Hultgren will continue to rack up election victories.

Five or seven primary candidates is not the way to beat an incumbent folks!


It ain’t just the Democrats

In what can only be described as the equal and opposite reaction to Kane County Chairman Chris Lauzen running a number of candidates against sitting board members, Wayne attorney Ken Shepro was just appointed chairman of the Kane County Republican Party.

Circuit Clerk Tom Hartwell stepped down from that position last week because you can’t run for judge and hold a party office.


If you recall, Shepro was the board attorney under former Chairman Karen McConnaughay, and, in an effort to keep him from focusing on the Coroner’s race, he was Lauzen’s primary opponent in 2016.

Shepro will hold the GOP Chair until at least until March when the party precinct committeemen will take the official vote.

Perhaps I’m beyond naïve, but even though they clearly aren’t on each other’s Christmas card list, I’m fervently hoping these two eminently intelligent men can put their past differences aside and work for the betterment of the Kane County Republican Party.

Because if they can’t find a way to come together, or at least peacefully coexist, the Democrats have a real chance of flipping the county board this round.

It’s not that I have a dog in that fight – some of my best friends are Democrats – I’m simply reporting on a possibility as I perceive it.

Quick Hits – December 8, 2017

Political odds and ends

With all the nominating paperwork in and hopeless write-in candidates the only remaining option, let’s quickly cover the stragglers who turned their nominating petitions in at the end of the filing period.

As expected, Jack Cunningham filed his paperwork on Monday to limit the possibility of a challenge. It was a smart move as he has been thrown off the ballot before (and no one caught his major 2014 error).


This time, Jack’s signature sheets are rock solid, so he will face his former Chief Deputy, Stan Bond, in the March 20 primary. Again, I think Cunningham will win this one without breaking much of a sweat.

Meanwhile, though I typically applaud anyone with the cojones to throw their hat in the ring, Nicolas “Nico” Jimenez also entered that race on the Democratic side, making Don Quixote’s capacity to tilt at windmills pale by comparison.

If you recall, Nico, tried to unseat 18th District County Board member, Drew Frasz, in the abundantly Republican Blackberry Township, and he lost big. Considering the still Republican leaning Kane County voters, whether it’s Bond or Cunningham, the result will be the same.

One of the cardinal rules of running for office is to pick a race you can win. With today’s 24/7 news cycle, two losses, and especially two large losses, in a row makes it almost impossible to win the next one. So, while I certainly appreciate his enthusiasm, my fervent wish is that Mr. Jimenez had chosen a bit more wisely.

Treasurer Dave Rickert also submitted his paperwork on Monday, but that timing is immaterial because, even if he had an opponent, he’s virtually unbeatable. He’s done a great job with that office and, considering all of his input into my impending ‘So You Wanna Win a Local Election’ book, he’d be a tough target regardless of his record.


But no PCs!

This one continues to baffle me.

The Tea Party’s biggest mistake, among many, is their abject failure to get precinct committeemen elected. They didn’t even bother to slate very many! They were so busy with their silly social issue stances, they never quite figured out where the real political power lies.

Granted, our light speed media culture has rendered the old-school PC worker bee somewhat obsolete, but they, and only they, elect the local party leaders. And if you control the party leaders, you control the party.

Despite this all-to-obvious reality, with the exception of Aurora and Elgin, every even-year election sees a precipitous drop in the number of folks willing to get the 10 signatures necessary to serve as precinct committeeman.

To wit, there are 169 non-city of Aurora/Elgin precincts and, right now, only 69 have GOP PC candidates, while a mere 47 PC candidates are running on the Democratic side. Were I elected chairman of either party – a prospect that terrifies me even more than Donald Trump – that’s the first thing I’d attempt to address.


Crain’s gets it right!

Fed up with trolls and stupid people, and there are plenty of both, Crain’s Chicago Business just eliminated all reader commentary on their website. This eminently smart move eliminates the impossible tasks of enforcing non-anonymity rules and trying to keep the worst offenders from regularly destroying the conversation.


Readers can still comment on Facebook where’s it much easier to block and moderate the chicken shit readers who can’t seem to muster the courage to use their real names.

Crain’s, the last Illinois bastion of real journalism, did the right thing.


It must be something in the water

All Kane County cities have an overarching personality. Though I’m not terribly fond of the motto, Elgin really is The City in the Suburbs. Aurora’s is based on the kind of diversity that being Illinois’ second largest city brings

Geneva is the City of Whites, St. Charles embodies a mature calmness, and Batavia always seems to feel like the lost Tri-Cities stepchild. Sugar Grove, Elburn and Pingree grove are experiencing growing pains. North Aurora is a bit insular, Carpentersville is the working man’s town, and Gilberts and Maple Park have retained their rural flair.

But Huntley is fucking nuts!


Don’t get me wrong, every municipality has issues, but Huntley’s most recent claim to fame is three well-reported racist attacks revolving around the high school since last February. One of them included blatantly bigoted pamphlets taped to lockers.

That wouldn’t normally be enough for me to dismiss an entire town, but when you add my experience as a travel soccer coach, all this negative news doesn’t surprise me in the least.

The parents were nuts, the coaches were more nuts and the players, especially the middle school girls, were downright petulant and nasty. Then they’d all concoct the tallest of tales to absolve themselves of any responsibility for their boorish behavior.

This, of course, begs the question, can you prescribe Prozac to an entire village?

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, the aforementioned Judge Flood, and, brace yourselves, KC Public Defender Kelli Childress.

Despite putting Daniel Rak up at one boyfriend’s house, and then immediately “moving on” to “date” the foreman of the jury that just acquitted Rak of murder, Childress is gonna give the black dress a shot.

I guess that’s why they call it chutzpah!

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.

Quick Hits – November 29, 2017

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.


1. Sheriff

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:

  1. His incredible name recognition.
  2. Elections have run smoothly even after the departure of Director of Elections Suzanne Fahnestock.
  3. With his particularly egregious 2015 tax error a distant memory, there’s no issue to separate the candidates.
  4. 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).

Quick Hits – November 27, 2017

It ain’t that hard to tell ‘em apart

Batavia has struggled with them; St. Charles seems to be overrun with them; and now Oswego is considering all sorts of regulations to contend with them. And the “them” in this particular case is “those” kind of massage businesses, or as they’re known in popular parlance, “massage parlors.”

But while our local city councils dither and debate about how to determine the difference between legitimate and not-so-legitimate spa businesses, if they just took a small step outside that municipal forest, those aldermen might see that the State of Illinois has things well in hand.


Put more simply, with the necessary laws already on the books, it’s simply a matter of local law enforcement applying them.

As far as identifying the “spas” that offer those “extra” services, it really isn’t rocket science. So, in the vein of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck,” here goes:

1. If the massage business has an Asian or single letter name:

Shangri La Spa and Sauna

  • Lotus Spa
  • Golden Spa
  • Lucky Massage
  • Jade Massage
  • U Spa, M Spa or T Spa

It might not be a legitimate business.

2. If the massage “therapists” are all young to middle-aged Asian women, it might not be a legitimate business.

3. If their ads and literature primarily target men, it might not be a legitimate business.

4. If the front door is always locked and you have to make an appointment to get in, it might not be a legitimate business.

5. If the “spa” is located in a low-end strip mall, it might not be a legitimate business.

6. If the “spa” is open from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., it might not be a legitimate massage business.

7. If there’s an ATM in the lobby, it might not be a legitimate massage business.

8. And here’s the big one! If the front windows are tinted black or they’re sealed tighter than a year old jar of pickles, it might not be a legitimate business.

So, now that we’ve identified the obvious offenders, how do municipalities get rid of them? Easy!

Illinois requires real massage therapists to be licensed. That means fingerprinting, a background check and a diploma from a legitimate massage school which generally takes two years of intense study.

So, whenever one of those “businesses” pops up, all the local gendarmes or code enforcement officers have to do is pop in and ask for a copy of those licenses which must be kept on the premises at all times.

If the owner can’t come up with the paperwork, then you can arrest the “therapists” and shut down the business – no undercover police sting necessary. And if you make those visits on a monthly or quarterly basis, that’ll be the end of massage parlors in your town!

The problem is, whenever city councils get together to further regulate massage enterprises, like the proverbial camel designed by the committee aiming for a horse, the new rules always seem to hurt the legitimate businesses.


Too little, too late Bruce!

It’s actually kind of an innovative campaign commercial that rotates through our neighboring Republican governors who proceed to thank Speaker Michael Madigan for sending Illinois businesses their way.

Rauner commercial

While there’s a certainly some truth to that ad, and it certainly would’ve worked the first time he ran, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has displayed absolutely no capacity to work with or beat Mike Madigan on absolutely anything.

And with his Democratic challengers similarly beating up on the Speaker, Rauner’s re-messaging attempt falls completely flat.

I’ll ask it one more time, who the hell is advising this guy?


But it gets worse

While Rauners’ ad is inconsequential, just when you thought his messaging couldn’t get any worse, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy’s current TV effort is downright cringe worthy.

Robert Kennedy

Using his assassinated father, Robert Kennedy, as a backdrop, the candidate promises to put an end to Illinois gun violence. While that’s certainly a laudable endeavor, using a dead Kennedy to make your point might not provoke the kind of visceral response the campaign is looking for.

Maybe it’s just me, but viewing that commercial for the first time left me with a post fingernails scratching down a blackboard kind of feeling.

All I can say is, it’s infuriating to watch Kennedy and Democratic competitor Daniel Biss race to the electoral bottom. They’ve actually managed to make charisma-less frontrunner J. B. Pritzker look good by comparison.

Can’t we come up with better candidates than this?


Well done!

All Tri-Cities sports rivalries aside, I have to tip my hat to those Batavia Bulldog football players who pulled off a 21 – 14 overtime win against Lake Zurich in the Class 7A state final Saturday at NIU’s Huskie Field.


Considering the massive wear and tear of the average football season, any team with the mental fortitude to pull out the big game in overtime after surrendering a 14 point lead deserves a lot of credit.

Well done, boys!