Kane County Board election creates even Democrat-Republican split
Seven new members were elected Tuesday to the Kane County Board, putting new representatives in place for more than one-third of the county.
Democrats also gained a 12-12 split on the board, but recent history indicates the even number won't foretell a blue wave for county policy in the near future.
The new Democrats on the board are Anita Lewis, Matt Hanson, Chris Kious and Mo Iqbal.
Lewis was courted to run for the seat by county board Chairman Chris Lauzen, who is a Republican. Iqbal ran an unsuccessful campaign for Elgin City Council in 2015, but he defeated incumbent Republican Kurt Kojzarek by nearly 700 votes.
Kojzarek was seen by some as the heir apparent to become chairman whenever Lauzen decides not to seek re-election. Now, Kojzarek said, he's done with running for office.
"I think 13 years was a pretty good run," he said. "That's a third of my life I've been knocking on doors."
Kojzarek said the evident popularity of Democrats near the top of the ballot, like Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood, fueled his defeat. So did the relative unpopularity of Gov. Bruce Rauner.
"By my projections, all I needed was the amount of votes I had," Kojzarek said. "I got my people out. It's just there were 2,000 extra people that didn't vote or didn't register that changes from four years ago. The changing demographics swept me in."
The demographics didn't change everywhere in Kane County.
The so-called "pink wave" of women getting elected didn't materialize in the county board races. With the exception of longtime GOP incumbent Barb Wojnicki, all female Kane County Board candidates (all Democrats) who faced male challengers (all Republicans) lost.
One of those was Democrat Tara Jacobsen. She hoped to fill the seat served by Becky Gillam and bring another voice to oppose the Longmeadow Parkway project to the board. She lost to Republican Cliff Surges.
Longmeadow opponents did have one success in getting Democrat Chris Kious elected to the board to replace departing Republican Maggie Auger.
There were also two controversial Democratic wins Tuesday night.
Anita Lewis beat Olynda De Hoyos. Lewis ran as a Democrat after being recruited by Lauzen. De Hoyos ran as an independent after being recruited by Aurora Democrats to challenge Lauzen's selection. Lewis received 61 percent of the vote.
The other controversial race saw Democrat Matt Hanson defeat incumbent Democratic write-in Ron Ford.
Ford was another Lauzen recruit. He filled a vacancy on the board in the lead-up to the election. But local Democrats refused to slate Ford after his selection by Lauzen. Ford gained only 307 votes as a write-in candidate and blamed his loss on a lack of media coverage.
In addition to Cliff Surges, two new Republicans are joining the board.
Tom Koppie replaces fellow Republican T.R. Smith. Smith didn't run for re-election in support of his term limits pledge. Steve Weber replaces fellow Republican Phil Lewis. Lewis, a frequent foil for Lauzen, lost his primary race after Lauzen recruited Weber to run.
Lauzen recognized the new 12-12 split on the board in his first public remarks after the election. Though several county board members privately expressed doubts, Lauzen pledged a nonpartisan approach.
"We'll continue to treat people as respectfully as possible," Lauzen said. "No one has raised their voice in this public body in six years. We have not embarrassed ourselves in public meetings. I don't care, and I haven't cared, if a person is a Republican, Democrat or independent.
"People say it's 12-12 now. Fine. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if a person is a man or a woman or in-between. All I care is that people are honest and they work hard and they recognize how hard the process is."
Lauzen also promised to hold all board members accountable for any promises they made during their election campaigns, especially when it comes to the budget.