Dems may have ma­jor­ity on board

Unof­fi­cial re­sults show party gain­ing that dis­tinc­tion for first time

Daily Southtown - - FRONT PAGE - By Su­san DeMar Laf­ferty

Rid­ing the wave that thrust many Democrats and women to vic­tory through­out the state Tues­day night, were Will County Democrats who ap­pear to have won just enough seats on the county board to gain a 14-12 ma­jor­ity.

They also ap­par­ently claimed all county-wide seats and two judge­ships, ac­cord­ing to unof­fi­cial re­sults.

It is the first time that Democrats con­trolled all county-wide seats, board lead­er­ship said.

Go­ing into Tues­day’s elec­tion, Repub­li­cans held a 16-10 ma­jor­ity on the board, and had Nancy Schultz Voots as clerk, and Steve We­ber as trea­surer.

Voots is re­tir­ing after four terms, and her seat was won by Demo­crat Lau­ren Sta­ley-Ferry. We­ber was ap­par­ently de­feated in his re-elec­tion bid by Joliet Demo­crat Tim Bro­phy.

Democrats took four board seats away from Repub­li­cans – just enough to earn a 14-12 ma­jor­ity – in­clud­ing seats in tra­di­tional Repub­li­can strongholds like Wheat­land and Frank­fort Town­ships, of­fi­cials said.

Demo­crat Shawn Walsh ran un­op­posed for an­other term as Re­gional Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools.

Demo­crat Mi­nor­ity Leader Her­bert Brooks Jr., said it was not only a “blue wave” but a “fe­male wave” and other fac­tors that pro­pelled many can­di­dates to vic­tory at the county level. Five of the six new peo­ple elected to the county board are fe­males, and five are Democrats, and half of the 26 county board mem­bers will be women.

The new faces are Repub­li­can Julie Anne Berkow­icz, and Democrats Mimi Cowan, Amanda Koch, Meta Mueller, Rachel Ven­tura and Joe VanDuyne.

While Will County govern­ment is do­ing well, vot­ers were un­happy with the state of Illi­nois, “and that sent a mes­sage as well,” Brooks said.

Board Speaker Jim Moustis, R-Frank­fort Town­ship, also ac­knowl­edged that the county was part of the blue wave.

“Will County was cer­tainly not im­mune to that,” he said, not­ing that there also was a large num­ber of new vot­ers.

But lo­cally, the can­di­dates also worked hard, he said.

“The pen­du­lum has swung a lit­tle fur­ther to the left, and we will see where it swings next,” Moustis said.

Vot­ers who chose Democrats J.B Pritzker as gover­nor and Lau­ren Un­der­wood, of Naperville, to rep­re­sent the Con­gres­sional 14th District, cre­ated a coat­tail ef­fect for Will County can­di­dates, of­fi­cials said.

Repub­li­can Dar­ren Ben­nefield, of Plain­field, who lost his bid for re-elec­tion in District 5 in Plain­field and Wheat­land Town­ships, said the Democrats “did a great job” of pro­mot­ing fe­male can­di­dates and pre-ex­ist­ing health care, and put “a lot of money” into the cam­paign.

“It was a for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge,” he said. His Repub­li­can col­league Gretchen Fritz won her re-elec­tion bid.

Ben­nefield said he was “sur­prised” by the re­sults, be­cause when the Repub­li­cans had the ma­jor­ity, “we did some great things,” like lower the tax rate and launch cap­i­tal projects.

Meta Mueller, the Demo­crat who won Ben­nefield's seat, said it was due to “a com­bi­na­tion of hard work and the blue wave.”

“I've been out knock­ing on doors and meet­ing peo­ple in the district since be­fore the pri­mary elec­tion, and so have many vol­un­teers. I found that most res­i­dents I talked with ap­pre­ci­ated learn­ing more about what the county does to serve them. Democrats worked to­gether in my com­mu­nity and cre­ated our lo­cal blue wave,” Mueller said.

County Ex­ec­u­tive Larry Walsh, D-El­wood, said the Demo­cratic Party put up good can­di­dates who were ded­i­cated and hard work­ing in their ef­forts to knock on doors and get their mes­sages out.

Vol­un­teers sup­ported county can­di­dates, such as Mimi Cowan, Vin­cent Cor­nelius, and Mueller, Walsh said. Cowan in District 11, along with Mueller in District 5, be­came the first Democrats to win county board seats in that area, he said, not­ing that this di­verse area is tran­si­tion­ing.

Vot­ers in the north­west cor­ner of the county also elected Repub­li­can Julie Anne Berkow­icz after both Repub­li­can in­cum­bents Suzanne Hart and Chuck Ma­her lost in the pri­mary.

Cor­nelius, who also lives in this area, de­feated Repub­li­can Vic­to­ria McKay Ken­ni­son for the 12th Cir­cuit Court judge post.

The other judge­ship was won by Demo­crat David Gar­cia, of Joliet who de­feated Repub­li­can Ben Braun, to be­come the first Latino cir­cuit judge in Will County.

Lo­cal is­sues – such as the con­tro­ver­sial NorthPoint De­vel­op­ment pro­posal for a large-scale ware­house pro­ject in un­in­cor­po­rated Jack­son Town­ship – also swayed vot­ers, who are fed up with truck traf­fic in their neigh­bor­hoods.

In District 5, vot­ers chose Repub­li­can in­cum­bent Don Gould, of Shore­wood, and Demo­crat Joe Van Duyne, of Wilm­ing­ton, who have op­posed the pro­ject, and ousted Repub­li­can in­cum­bent Deb­bie Militello, who has not yet taken a stand on that is­sue.

Van Duyne said the Democrats did not count on rid­ing the blue wave, but “stayed the course and worked hard. We didn't take it for granted,” he said.

“I'm re­ally ex­cited to work with Don Gould. I plan to jump into my seat and fig­ure out how things work,” he said.

Two years ago, when he ran and lost, he said it was the “red wave and Trump fac­tor.”

In District 2, in Green Gar­den, Man­hat­tan, and part of Frank­fort Town­ships, board Speaker Moustis, who also op­posed NorthPoint, won an­other term.

“I'm very thank­ful I did as well as I did,” he said, call­ing the vic­tory a “vote of con­fi­dence.” He has been on the board since 1992.

Demo­crat Amanda Koch, an Army vet­eran, mak­ing her first at­tempt at elected of­fice, will re­place Frank­fort Repub­li­can Cory Singer who lost in the pri­mary to Repub­li­can Keith Ogle. Ogle, a Frank­fort vil­lage trustee, fin­ished third in the race for two seats.

An­other Demo­cratic fe­male who was the top vote get­ter was Rachel Ven­tura, 37, of Joliet, who will rep­re­sent District 9 with Repub­li­can An­nette Parker, who won a se­cond term.

Ven­tura said she ran a grass­roots cam­paign of new vol­un­teers “who were anx­ious to see change.”

They knocked on 10,000 doors and fol­lowed up with phone calls up to the last minute, she said.

“I am happy that the board flipped to blue so the Democrats can prove what they can do,” Ven­tura said.

“But we have to work to­gether. We all got into govern­ment to help the com­mu­nity and if we fo­cus on that, we can do it,” she said.

The county has a lot go­ing on, with its build­ing projects and road im­prove­ments, and Walsh said he will con­tinue in the same di­rec­tion.

“The game is the same, but with dif­fer­ent play­ers and lead­ers,” he said. “We will do our best to have a well oiled ma­chine that is re­spon­sive to our con­stituents. You never go wrong by lis­ten­ing to your con­stituency.”

Of the 13 dis­tricts on the county board, eight will have mem­bers from both par­ties.

“The cau­cuses may have a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to solv­ing prob­lems or de­liv­er­ing ser­vices, but we are not ex­tremely par­ti­san. At the end of the day, we get things done,” Moustis said.

“The elec­tion is over. I will work with any­one who is there,” he said, adding that step­ping down as speaker will al­low him to fo­cus more on his district, he said.

Brooks said those in Will County govern­ment “al­ways got along well, and that will con­tinue.”

With the party shift, the mi­nor­ity leader also said he plans to once again seek the role of speaker of the board.






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