Primary election start of changes for Will Co. Board
BY JON SEIDEL Sun-Times Media March 5, 2012 11:34AM
KEY ISSUES IN WILL COUNTY
Last year’s budget talks revealed competing fiscal philosophies on the Will County Board — whether to fully fund the rising cost of county services and set cash aside for a financial crisis, or lower taxes and cut spending as much as possible.
The county board is also working on a plan to build, renovate or expand offices to get some of its agencies out of dilapidated, out-of-date or poorly maintained buildings.
Will County leaders — including County Board Chairman Jim Moustis and Executive Larry Walsh — are also trying to block U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. from controlling the proposed South Suburban Airport if it’s built near Peotone.
Updated: April 6, 2012 8:07AM
Voters will send at least seven new faces to a Will County Board that’s shrinking by one member in the fall.
And though every incumbent bowing out of this year’s board race is a Republican, the GOP has flooded the field with 30 new candidates. That’s created seven competitive Republican contests in the March 20 primary election.
Democrats have only four crowded races, but they’ll get to decide whether County Executive Larry Walsh should be nominated for a third term. He’s being challenged by fellow Democrat Leonard Thompson Jr., a Joliet native who bills himself as the first black candidate for the county’s top office.
Residents are going to hear the candidates talk about how the county should use its money, what to do about its aging buildings and growing population, and how to bring more jobs to the county.
The last is key for Thompson, who wants the county to finally build a new courthouse. He said he’d pay for it by charging a $1 fee at hospital parking lots, exempting emergency visitors.
He said that’d create thousands of new construction jobs. And, once it’s built, he said he’d open a “Jobs for Justice” office staffed by private employers ready to interview and put people to work.
“We can find a way to do it if we come together,” Thompson said.
Walsh said he also wants more jobs in Will County, just like everyone else. But he said it’s not as easy as waving a magic wand, and he doesn’t think the county board has the political will to build a new courthouse.
So he’s been working with the county’s Center for Economic Development to entice companies to hire more residents. The former state senator said Will County is on its way to becoming a global transportation hub, so it’ll be important for local leaders to be able to work with state officials on projects such as the Illiana Expressway.
“We need to be able to sit down and be able to work with our Legislature,” said Walsh, who is also proud of the way he’s opened up relationships with the city of Joliet over the last four years.
The winner of the Walsh-Thompson race will face Republican Cory Singer in the fall. He has no primary opponent.
13 DISTRICTS, 60 CANDIDATES
The spring vote will be Will County’s first under a new election map approved by the county board in June. And every seat on the board is up for grabs this year — a once-in-a-decade opportunity.
“I think that’s what draws more people out,” Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots said.
And out they’ve come. Some 41 candidates jumped into races with 19 incumbents this year, all to fill 26 seats across 13 districts.
The new map guaranteed changes this year. It cut overall board membership by one — from 27 members on the current county board to 26 — and pitted incumbents against each other in some districts.
Republican Laurie McPhillips chose to run for recorder after its passage, Brian Smith of the GOP decided to run for State Senate, Singer is seeking the executive’s office, and four of their fellow party members chose not to seek another term.
Bowing out are Republicans Ann Dralle of Lemont, Ed Kusta of Bolingbrook, Jim Bilotta of Lockport and Deborah Rozak of Wilmington.
The death of incumbent Democrat Frank Stewart also stopped a primary battle in the Joliet-based 8th District. Otherwise, just two chairs would have been available to three incumbents — Stewart and fellow Democrats Herb Brooks Jr. and Denise Winfrey.
CROWDED RACES THREATEN INCUMBENTS
Brooks and Winfrey still aren’t guaranteed a spot on the fall ballot, though. Democrat Vernel Miller of Joliet is also running in their district, meaning they’re among 11 incumbents who must earn the voters’ nomination March 20.
The most crowded county board race is in Will County’s new 7th District — it mostly includes parts of Homer Glen and Lockport — where no Democrats have filed but five GOP candidates are running along with incumbent Republican Kathleen Konicki. They are Stephen J. Balich of Orland Park, James Louch and David H. Palya of Lockport, and Mike Fricilone and Cindy Polke of Homer Glen.
Six people have been drawn to the race in the new 13th District, which has no incumbent and two open seats. The area includes the northern and western parts of Joliet and parts of the Interstate 55 corridor.
Five Republicans want a spot on the ballot — Randy Kainrath of Plainfield, Liz Collins and John J. McDonough of Romeoville, and Timothy Kraulidis and Ilona Vaughn of Joliet. One Democrat is running, too: Mark Ferry of Plainfield.
Finally, two Republicans are running against County Board Chairman Jim Moustis of Frankfort and Dave Izzo of Tinley Park in the new 2nd District drawn around Frankfort, Manhattan and Tinley Park. Moustis is the leader of the board, but Izzo joined just three months ago to fill the seat left behind by the retirement of former board member Laurie Smith.
The Republican challengers are Angela Dell and J.C. “Tuck” Marshall of Frankfort. The only Democrat seeking a nomination there is Victor O. Jonathan of Tinley Park.
Here are other districts where incumbents are being challenged:
DISTRICT 1: Incumbent Democrat Katrina Deutsche of Crete is running as an independent in Will County’s new southeastern 1st District. She’ll sit out this spring while incumbent Democrat Robert E. Howard of Beecher faces off with David M. Fazzini of Peotone and Willie E. Box Jr. of University Park. Republicans there will pick two nominees out of a field that contains Kent B. Heisner of Peotone and Judy Ogalla, Dave Stockton and Heather Van Cleave Farquhar, all of Monee.
DISTRICT 4: Bolingbrook Democrat Jacqueline Traynere must survive a challenge from Kenneth Harris and Shirley M. Valevicius, also of Bolingbrook, to keep her seat. The winner of that primary will face Republicans Kenneth R. Cygan and Felix George of Bolingbrook, the only candidates on the GOP side of the ticket there.
DISTRICT 6: Incumbent Democrat Sharon May of Minooka must fend off Mike O’Connell and Tim Vanderhyden of Elwood. Republican incumbent Don Gould of Shorewood will be joined by Ragan Freitag of Wilmington this fall on the other side of that district’s ballot.
DISTRICT 11: The Naperville-based 11th District primary has drawn no Democratic candidates. But Republican incumbents Suzanne Hart and Charles “Chuck” Maher will be challenged by fellow Naperville residents Debra Holscher and Joe (Joseph) Hudetz.
DISTRICT 12: No Democrats are running in the primary in the new 12th District, either, where Republican incumbent Tom Weigel of New Lenox must fend off Margo McDermed of Mokena and Chris Kosel and Raymond Tuminello of New Lenox.
Other races mostly uncontested:
DISTRICT 3: The 3rd District is incumbent-free. Elizabeth J. “Beth” Rice of Bolingbrook has signed up to be a Democratic nominee, while Stephen J. Engel and Victor D. Zack of Romeoville are on the ballot for the Republicans.
DISTRICT 5: Incumbents John F. Argoudelis and LeeAnn Goodson of Plainfield will have no opposition in the Republican primary for the new 5th District, and Mike Costello of Plainfield will be on the general election ballot for the Democrats.
DISTRICT 9: Democrat incumbents Walter G. Adamic of Joliet and Diane H. Seiler-Zigrossi of Lockport will have a spot on the general election ballot in the 9th District, where Catherine Perretta of Lockport will be a Republican nominee.
DISTRICT 10: Incumbents Joseph Babich and Stephen Wilhelmi of Joliet will move on to the general election for the Democrats. But Republicans John Iacobucci of Plainfield and Christine Boban-Merriman and Sharon Cemeno Hicks of Joliet will fight for two ballot slots in the 10th District.