Tom Kacich | Tuesday's election is historic for multiple reasons

Tom Kacich | Tuesday's election is historic for multiple reasons

Whatever happens in Tuesday's election, history will be made in Champaign County. The first county executive — either Democrat Darlene Kloeppel or Republican Gordy Hulten — will assume the office in December.

Under state law, the county executive sets policy, develops a budget, has his or her own staff and has veto powers over the county board. Champaign County will become only the second county in Illinois with an executive.

Tuesday's election has the potential to be memorable in other ways as well:

— Two Champaign County residents are on the statewide ballot: state Treasurer Mike Frerichs of Champaign, a Democrat, and Republican attorney general candidate Erika Harold of Urbana. If they both win, one-third of the state's constitutional officers will be from Champaign County. Not surprisingly, that hasn't happened before. It's likely that the other four constitutional officers chosen Tuesday all will be from Cook County, with a population about 25 times larger than Champaign County.

— There's a very good chance that four of Illinois' six new constitutional officeholders will be racial minorities, with only the governor and state treasurer being white. The major party candidates for attorney general and lieutenant governor are minorities; Secretary of State Jesse White, who is African-American, is a shoo-in for another term; and Democrat Susana Mendoza is heavily favored to be elected to a full term as comptroller.

— There's a possibility that Champaign-Urbana could be represented in Congress by a Democrat for the first time since 1993. The most recent public poll of the 13th Congressional District — which extends from Champaign-Urbana through Decatur, Springfield, parts of Bloomington-Normal and to some Illinois suburbs of St. Louis — gave U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, only a 5 percentage point lead over Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan of Springfield. Thirteen percent were undecided in the poll taken in late October by the New York Times and Siena College.

The last Democrat to represent Champaign-Urbana in Congress was Rep. Terry Bruce of Olney, who served from 1985 to 1993 in the old 19th Congressional District. Since then, the cities have been represented by Republicans Tom Ewing, Tim Johnson and Davis.

— No matter who wins the 13th District race, it will go down as the most expensive of its four races since 2012. As of Saturday, more than $11.3 million had been spent by Londrigan and Davis and by "independent" groups such as the Congressional Leadership Fund, House Majority PAC, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, National Rifle Association Victory Fund and Women Vote! That exceeds the $96 million spent in the 2012 race between Davis and Democrat David Gill.

— Incumbent Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten isn't seeking another term, so two people who haven't run countywide before — Democrat Aaron Ammons and Republican Matt Grandone — are running to succeed him. Amazingly, in Champaign County's 185-year history, there have been only 15 county clerks. (Three of them had long terms: Thomas R. Webber from 1833 to 1852, Fred Hess from 1910 to 1930 and Dennis Bing from 1971 to 1991). Ammons, who has run a well-funded campaign, could be the first Democrat in the office in 76 years. Elmer P. Hoggatt was clerk from 1930 to 1942.

— A longer shot is Democrat Dustin Heuerman, who wants to be the first Democratic sheriff in the county in 84 years. Elmer Shoaf, whose term ended in 1934, was the last Democrat in the office. Republican Allen Jones, seeking to succeed Sheriff Dan Walsh, likely will lead the Republican ticket.

— Republicans in Champaign County are hopeful of taking over the county board for the first time since 2000. They're running candidates in 13 of the 15 county board races on the ballot. Democrats are on the ballot in 10 of the 15 races.

— The number of votes cast in Champaign County likely will be a record for a midterm general election. The 55,434 votes in 2014 seems certain to be surpassed based on the 25,426 already tabulated by the county clerk's office Friday.

Last-minute donors

Londrigan and Davis have collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in the closing days of the campaign, according to "48-hour" notices filed in recent days with the Federal Election Commission.

Among the notable contributions to Londrigan: $1,000 from the Congressional Black Caucus; $3,000 from the New Democrat Coalition PAC; $4,000 from the Bridge the Gap PAC, affiliated with Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield; $2,000 from the Giffords PAC, affiliated with former Rep. Gabby Giffords; $2,000 from Elizabeth for Massachusetts, the campaign fund of Sen. Elizabeth Warren; $2,700 from Laura Ricketts, the liberal co-owner of the Chicago Cubs; and $1,000 from the Everytown for Gun Safety Fund, whose advisory board members include Michael Bloomberg and Warren Buffett.

Among notable contributions to Davis: $2,700 each from both Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who are Las Vegas casino owners and major GOP funders; $5,000 each from the Ironworkers Political League and the National Automobile Dealers Association; $5,000 each from the political committees of Rep. Mimi Walters of California, Andy Barr of Virginia and Kevin Yoder of Kansas; and $3,000 from Google's political action committee.

Also, $1,000 from the National Cannabis Industry Association PAC. Davis has said he believes it should be up to each state whether marijuana should be legal.

Londrigan agrees, telling The News-Gazette in her candidate questionnaire: "It's time for the federal government to update its approach and respect individual state rights."

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette columnist. His column appears on Sundays.

Sections (3):News, Local, State
Tags (1):election 2018
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