Candidates emerge for districts 7 and 8 on Champaign County Board
CHAMPAIGN — Two Champaign residents, one Republican and one Democrat, say they intend to run for seats on the Champaign County Board.
Scott Redenbaugh, 28, said Thursday he will be a Democratic candidate for the District 8 seat now held by Michael Richards. Richards has already announced that he is running for the Illinois House seat now held by retiring state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana.
And Tom Grey, a Champaign businessman and the husband of former Champaign school board President Sue Grey, said he'll run in District 7.
Grey, 58, is a Republican who will run for the seat now held by Democratic county board Chairman Al Kurtz. Kurtz already faces an intra-party challenge from former county board Chairman C. Pius Weibel.
District 7, which is entirely within Champaign, is largely Democratic. In last year's election, two Democrats ran for two available county board seats, but no Republicans did. And in a race indicative of party strength, Democrat Barbara Wysocki got 55 percent of the vote for circuit clerk in the district versus 45 percent for Republican Katie Blakeman. Blakeman won the countywide balloting, however, 54 percent to 46 percent.
But Democratic voter turnout is always lower in non-presidential election years, meaning a Republican candidate would have a better chance next year.
Grey, who said he has lived in the district for 26 years, said he believes he can attract Democratic votes as well.
"As I've started walking through the neighborhood and asking people to sign my petitions, I've got school teachers stand there and look me in the eyes and say, 'You know, I'm a Democrat.' And I say, 'And here's the reason why I'd like you to sign my petition,'" Grey said. "And we'll have a conversation and we'll find out we're probably on the same page as far as thinking about how we put food on our tables, and what's good for the community and are we being fiscally responsible. I don't think those are Republican or Democratic things.
"I probably, in my petitions, have just as many people signing who are Democrats as are signing as Republicans."
Grey served in the Army and was a member of Special Operations Forces, finishing his military career in 1978. In 1985, he started at the University of Illinois and graduated in 1990 with a degree in industrial design. He is the founder and president of Grey and Associates, which provides safety-training services to companies.
He has been the co-chairman of the CU Kiwanis Tom Jones Challenger Baseball League for special-needs children for eight years.
Both Redenbaugh and Grey said the future of the county nursing home is their top issue.
"I'm 100 percent against selling the nursing home," Redenbaugh said.
He also said he wanted to "dig in" to the recent county criminal-justice report, but added that he is "completely against" any increase in the county's quarter-cent public-safety sales tax, as proposed by Champaign Democrat Pattsi Petrie.
Grey said the nursing home "is number one on my plate."
"We can't walk away from it, that's part of the problem. So if you're not going to walk away from it — and you can't walk away from it — how do you make it the best?" Grey said. "I want every hospital within a 50-mile radius sending their patients there."
Grey said he thinks the county board has become too partisan.
"I just know from paying attention to the county board five years ago, 10 years ago, that I don't think there was that much of a spread before," he said. "Now it just seems that everybody votes party line, rather than paying attention to what the residents want."
Redenbaugh is a personal trainer with Andersen Chiropractic. He is a member of the board of directors for Family Service of Champaign County, a member of the Champaign Human Relations Commission, and head of the Champaign County Young Democrats organization.
He said he has already been endorsed by Jakobsson, Richards and Weibel, and by City of Champaign Township Supervisor Andy Quarnstrom, Champaign City Council member Marci Dodds, and county board member Josh Hartke, also of Champaign.