McHenry and St. Clair County Board Chairman Races

Published on

I don’t have the bandwidth to provide resources for all local races but I do want to highlight two current county board chairman races in two of the state’s bigger counties which have had a number of interesting developments, each in some way connected to a local state rep race.

 

McHenry County

Let’s start with McHenry County. This year will be the first time that the county board chairman in McHenry County is popularly elected, in the past the chairman was selected by the county board, a change that had been advocated by State Rep. Jack Franks.

In the Republican primary Michael Walkup defeated incumbent board chairman Joseph Gottemoller by 3 points, 51.5% to 48.5%. No Democratic candidates filed to run for county board chairman in the primary so it was thought that Walkup would be unopposed in the fall for the general election. However veteran State Rep. Jack Franks decided to give up his state house seat and run for the post so the local county party appointed him to the empty slot.

Embed this widget:

 

Despite coming from an overwhelmingly Republican area Jack Franks has been quite successful for a Democrat. In 2014 he won his state rep district by 17 points even though Rauner beat Quinn in the district by 34 points. If Franks hopes to win the county board race he’s going to need the same level of significantly outperforming other Democrats on the ballot. In 2012 Romney beat Obama by 9 points in the county and Rauner won it in 2014 by 35 points. Democrats can win here, Obama beat McCain in 2008 by 5 points, it’s just uncommon.

The one advantage Franks does have is in the fundraising department. He finished June with almost $575K in cash and investments. He has since added another $45K but $35K of it appears to be just converting his investments to cash. Walkup, on the other hand, had less than $2K at the end of June and has only added about $12K since, leaving him at a significant cash disadvantage.

Embed this widget:

 

Other Notable Committees:

 
 

St. Clair County

The St. Clair County Board chairman’s race is interesting because of a man whose name will not appear on the ballot, at least not for this race, Bob Romanik. Romanik is the Republican candidate for State Representative in the 114th district (map) which runs from East St. Louis west to Scott Air Force Base. Romanik is a local radio host who is known for being outspoken and colorful, to put it diplomatically.

Romanik is no fan of current Democratic county board chairman Mark Kern and he’s paid for a series of local billboards to demonstrate as such:

Lately, though, Romanik has gained the attention of local media with his billboards in the Belleville community, which comically lambast St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern.

His current billboard pictures Kern in a bikini with the caption “Mark ‘Sweetcakes’ Kern should have been a stripper. He’s already stripped us of our tax dollars!”

A previous Romanik billboard captured Kern alongside a clown and boldly asked: “Bozo and Mark ‘Sweetcakes’ Kern; who is the biggest clown in town?”

Yet another billboard during the Christmas season pictured Kern alongside an image of a Sasquatch (described as Kern’s wife, Erin) and declared, “We really don’t care if you have a happy holiday, because we’re rich idiots. We are really bottom feeders.”

Romanik was even charged but acquitted for trespassing at Kern’s home.

What makes Romanik interesting is not his rhetoric but his money. He put $2 million of his own money into his campaign fund and pledged to spend it not only on his own race but on other local races as well. Considering his confrontational past with Kern there is significant speculation that some of that money could be spent against Kern. Kern is apparently taking the possibility seriously, he just raised $100K from two family members, an action which lifted the contribution limits for this race.

Almost lost in all of this is Kern’s actual Republican opponent for county board chairman, Rodger Cook. Cook can now raise funds in unlimited amounts but so far he’s only raised about $2K for the entire 2016 cycle and he had less than $200 in the bank at the end of June.

While Cook’s fundraising has been anemic he likely won’t be the recipient of Romanik’s funds, at least not directly. In April the St. Clair County Republican Party voted to censure and rebuke Romanik using strong, clear language. Through a weird quirk in the SCCRCC website you can see their press release on the censure here. The party makes clear that they will not support Romanik and not accept his money, and that would presumably apply to Cook as well, even though he may be the beneficiary of whatever anti-Kern spending Romanik does undertake. St. Clair County politics will likely be interesting this fall, no matter what.

Embed this widget:

 

Cook will have his work cut out for him, St. Clair County has been reliably Democratic and this is a presidential election year. Rauner, Topinka and Cross all managed to win the county in 2014 so it is possible for Republicans to have success here but Quinn won the county in 2010 and Obama won it by 22 and 14 points in 2008 and 2012, respectively. 2016 is not expected to be as favorable for the Republicans as 2014 was so Cook will need a lot to work in his favor if he’s going to be successful.

Embed this widget:

 

Other Notable Committees: