Few contested races will mean low turnout Tuesday
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org March 17, 2014 9:58PM
Updated: April 19, 2014 6:25AM
While the Republican race for governor has drawn the most attention, there are a few local races and issues that will be decided in Tuesday’s primary election.
The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., but with so few contested races — only one-fourth of the races in suburban Cook County are contested — voter turnout is forecast to be low, which is typical for such an election.
The turnout has averaged about 25 percent in suburban Cook during the 2006 and 2010 gubernatorial primaries, the county clerk’s office reported.
“Turnout may be low for a primary in a non-presidential election, but voters should remember that the names on their ballots in November are a result of the contests in March,” Clerk David Orr said. “This only underscores the importance of voting in the primary.”
A record number of suburban Cook County residents are registered to vote in today’s primary — 1.45 million, an increase of nearly 13,000 from the previous record set in the 2010 primary, according to Orr’s office. That’s due in part to a new law that allows 17-year-olds to vote in the primary if they will be 18 by the Nov. 4 general election.
Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots also saw an increase, “but not a huge increase,” in registered voters.
“We’ll see how many vote,” she said. “People register but do not vote.”
Voots predicted a turnout of 17 percent among the county’s 389,369 registered voters, less than the 21.6 percent who cast a ballot in the 2010 primary election.
She said voters need to be sure they know where to vote because a few precincts have changed, and those voters were mailed new registration cards and information. Precinct locations and all voter information are on the clerk’s websites — www.cookcountyclerk.com and www.thewillcountyclerk.com.
In addition to deciding who the governor candidates will be in November, voters in Cook and Will counties will choose candidates for sheriff and county board along with state House and Senate districts, U.S. House districts and a U.S. Senate race. Several referendum questions are on the ballot regarding local issues such as term limits and tax increases.
In the 3rd Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski is unopposed in the Democratic primary, while Republicans Sharon Branigan and Diane Harris are competing to face Lipinski Nov. 4.
The 11th Congressional District has four Republicans — Chris Balkema, Bert Miller, Darlene Senger and Ian Bayne — vying for a chance to run in November against U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, who’s unopposed on the Democratic side Tuesday.
For U.S. Senate, Jim Oberweis and Douglas Truax are running against each other on the GOP ballot for a chance to take on U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who has no primary opponent, in November.
In Will County, where Sheriff Paul Kaupas is not seeking re-election, both parties have primary races. The GOP primary puts the sheriff’s police retired Deputy Chief Nick Ficarello against current Deputy Chief Ken Kaupas, a cousin of the outgoing sheriff. The Democratic contenders are current sheriff’s police officers Sgt. Mike Kelley and Lt. Steve Egan, and retired Lt. Ed Bradley.
On the Will County Board, there are eight seats from four districts up for election this year but contested races in only two districts. The board has 26 members, two from each of 13 districts.
In the 9th District, newcomer Lauren Staley-Ferry, of Joliet, will try to unseat one of two incumbents, Walter Adamic, of Joliet, and Diane Zigrossi, of Crest Hill. Annette Parker is not opposed in the GOP primary.
In the 11th District, Republican incumbents Suzanne Hart and Chuck Maher, both of Naperville, are opposed by challenger Michael Strick.
The 37th House District has a three-way Republican race to replace Rep. Renee Kosel, R-New Lenox, who’s retiring after 18 years. The candidates are Margo McDermed, Gayla Smith and Arthur Lukowski. On the Democratic side, voters will choose between August Deuser and Nichole Serbin.
In some races, such as that for Cook County sheriff, the primary will determine who takes office early next year. Sheriff Tom Dart has three challengers on the Democratic ballot — Tadeusz “Ted” Palka, Sylvester Baker Jr., and William Evans. There are no Republican candidates.
The state representatives from the 29th and 34th districts will be decided Tuesday. In the 29th District, Rep. Thaddeus Jones, of Calumet City, is opposed by Kenny Williams, of South Holland. There are no Republican candidates.
In the 34th District, two Republicans, Mark Ekhoff, of Grant Park, and Fatimah Macklin, of Chicago, will try to unseat Rep. Elgie Sims Jr., of Chicago. There are no Democratic candidates.
Besides the GOP gubernatorial primary, referendum issues in some Southland towns may draw more voters.
Oak Lawn voters will be asked if there should be term limits for village officials, while in Merrionette Park, voters will decide on home rule and two bond issues, one to buy a new fire truck and the other for new 911 software.
Sauk Village wants to impose a $2 surcharge for 911 equipment, South Chicago Heights wants $2.5 million to build a new public safety building and the Steger/South Chicago Heights Library District seeks a property tax rate increase.
In unincorporated Palos Township, voters will get a say on whether the township should sign up with an aggregate electrical supplier to keep costs down.
New Lenox voters will face two issues — whether to keep a six-cent tax levy for park district improvements and to increase the property tax rate for the fire protection district. The Homer Township Fire District also seeks voter approval to issue $4.7 million in bonds for new equipment.