Hulten lands chamber PAC's endorsement for county-executive post

Hulten lands chamber PAC's endorsement for county-executive post

CHAMPAIGN — The political action committee of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Republican Gordy Hulten over Democrat Darlene Kloeppel to be the county's first county executive.

The unusually early announcement comes almost 11 months before the general election set for Nov. 6, 2018.

"We decided that since the chamber was such a driver for the county executive initiative in the first place we wanted to make sure if we're going to get involved that we want as much of the (election) cycle as we could and to have as much impact as we possible could," said Garret Hill, spokesman for the Business Empowered political action committee.

The chamber of commerce along with the county Farm Bureau and Hulten, currently the county clerk, and state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, were the chief proponents of the county executive proposal which was narrowly approved by voters in November 2016 by a margin of 50.26 percent to 49.74 percent.

Hill said the endorsement would be worth at least a $5,000 campaign contribution to Hulten.

"This check is $5,000," he said. "We haven't promised anymore but we're not going to say no to more.

"We find this so important that we're willing to put our name and money in the investment. County executive is the top priority. It was the chamber that put his forward. We take this very seriously."

Kloeppel was unavailable for comment Wednesday morning.

Hulten, in a prepared statement, said that he was "grateful for the support."

"I look forward to a partnership as we engage our local job creators in the work of improving county government and improving its service and efficiency," he said.

Hill said the two candidates filled out a questionnaire and were interviewed separately in mid-October.

"As far as the issues go it was a pretty clear choice," Hill said. "If it were extraordinarily close we might have waited a little longer to flesh it out. But especially with the involvement in economic development, and a lot of other key issues at the county."

Those include, he said, Hulten's plans to address the county's financially struggling nursing home, to create a long term, sustainable facilities maintenance plan and for an independent county board redistricting process.

"But the big thing that pushed us to even introduce county executive was economic development but also the stalled issues at the county like the jail and the nursing home. We really like Gordy's vision of it," Hill said.

He denied that the endorsement process favored Hulten, who had worked with the chamber on the county executive plan.

"I would say it was fair and square. They both turned in surveys, they both interviewed. It was up to the board to make the decision. That was the process and that's how it should go," he said.

When he announced for the position in August, Hulten said he would focus on three issues as county executive: fiscal responsibility, independent redistricting and economic development.

When Champaign County elects a full-time county executive next November it will become only the second county in Illinois with the office. As planned the elected executive would have broad powers, including the authority to propose the county budget, make appointments, hire a staff, set county board agendas, implement the majority of county ordinances and veto actions of the county board, although vetoes could be overridden with a three-fifths majority. The executive would also have the power to vote, but only in order to break a tie on issues before the county board.

Also Wednesday, Hill said the chamber of commerce PAC would not get involved in primary elections in March, such as the Republican contest for county clerk or the three-way Democratic race in County Board District 6.

"I would anticipate no involvement in the primary," he said. "It's not that we don't find either of those important, but I just don't see the PAC getting involved in those."

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