CHAMPAIGN — Republican committeemen overwhelmingly picked Katie Blakeman as their candidate for Champaign County circuit court clerk at a special meeting Thursday night at GOP headquarters in Champaign.
Blakeman, 32, who has been an assistant director of development at the University of Illinois' division of student affairs, won on the first ballot with the support of 39 committeemen, garnering 7,739 weighted votes. A total of 6,689 were needed to win.
After her selection was announced, Blakeman said, "I'm very excited about it, and I'm really very touched that the Republican Party has chosen me to be their nominee, and I look forward to running a winning campaign."
Stephanie Holderfield, 50, who lost in the primary, had the support of 30 committeemen, with 5,528 votes.
Holderfield, appearing upset, left the meeting without comment after the results were made public.
Blakeman now plans to leave her job at the UI after next Friday so she can concentrate full time on her campaign.
Earlier in the meeting Thursday, the four applicants for the clerk position each spoke for five minutes, but lengthy question-and-answer sessions meant that the committeemen didn't begin their deliberations until around 8:45 p.m.
All but six of the 76 committeemen were in attendance, including state Rep. Chapin Rose of Mahomet, who earlier in the day had attended a legislative hearing in Grayslake, not far from the Wisconsin border.
An unidentified committeeman abstained from the vote.
Holderfield's presentation may have been the most dramatic of the four, since she has been running for the office longer than any of the other candidates.
She originally had planned to challenge the incumbent circuit clerk, Champaign Republican Linda Frank, who later opted not to run and instead endorsed former state Sen. Rick Winkel.
Winkel dropped out of the race in February — too late to have his name removed from the ballot. In a stunning election day result, Winkel won the primary over Holderfield.
"I'm tired of this process keeping my life in limbo," Holderfield told the committeemen Thursday. "I want to move forward, and you know what? That's why I implore every single one of you to vote for me."
She was asked if she would take legal action against the party if she didn't win the committeemen's backing.
"Am I going to proceed after this? I don't think I'm going to proceed after this," she said. "You guys are making the decision. I trust you. I trust every single one of you to make the right decision. I started this 10 months ago. I campaigned.
"I've got skin in the game. I've got blood on the floor. And I've got my own money in this."
Blakeman was asked how she differentiated herself from the Democratic candidate, former county board chairwoman Barbara Wysocki.
"I'm standing on my qualifications," she said. "My background as a qualified information professional and having customer experience, management experience and budget experience are all things that would qualify me for the position."
Sam Anderson, 34, an attorney, said she was prepared to run an aggressive campaign quickly.
Wysocki, she said, has "an incredible resume. She's a tough candidate but not an unbeatable candidate. That means I have to work 10 times harder than she does. I have to get out there and start the fundraising immediately. I have to go out there and meet people. That means boots on the ground, door to door, making sure that people know who I am."
Alexander "A.J." Ruggieri, 34, also an attorney, said the timing was good for him to run a tough campaign against Wysocki since he is completing a master's degree in corporate law and finance.
"That opens up my schedule to do whatever I have to do from here until November," he said. "It's just a matter of moving pieces from one side to the other.'
But as far as fundraising, "it's going to be a learning process for me," he said.