Tom Kacich | Women's results mixed in state, local races

Tom Kacich | Women's results mixed in state, local races

This was "the year of the woman" in congressional politics, with a record number of women elected to the U.S. Senate (24, including Tammy Duckworth of Illinois) and House (102 of the 435 members).

Those 126 female senators and representatives are a record number and percentage (23.55 percent of all congressional seats) and an increase from the 107 female members two years ago.

The number would have been greater if Democrat Betsy Londrigan of Springfield had gotten about 2,500 more votes in her 13th Congressional District race against incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville. The district includes Champaign-Urbana, where Londrigan won by about 2-to-1.

The rate of success wasn't quite the same in the Illinois Legislature or on the Champaign County Board last month.

The Illinois Senate will have a record 20 female members out of 59, all but two of them Democrats. Almost all of the female senators are from Chicago and the suburbs, with only Republicans Sue Rezin of Morris and Jil Tracy of Quincy from south of Interstate 80.

The 118-member Illinois House will have 44 women, down from 47 now. Eight of the female representatives are Republicans, 36 are Democrats. The numbers could have been even more lopsided if any of the three female Democratic candidates from East Central Illinois — Cindy Cunningham of rural St. Joseph, Jennifer McMillin of Decatur or Shirley Bell of Mattoon — had won their contests on Nov. 6. But all three were running in heavily Republican districts. Cunningham fared the best in her Champaign-Vermilion counties district with about 44 percent. She did much better in Champaign County though (49.6 percent with 50.4 percent for Republican Rep. Mike Marron).

The makeup of the new Illinois General Assembly to be seated in January will be 36 percent female, still significantly better than the Congress.

The Champaign County Board is another story, with only six female members out of 22 (27 percent): Republicans Jodi Eisenmann and Jodi Wolken and Democrats Leah Taylor, Stephanie Fortado, Tanisha King-Taylor and longtime board member Lorraine Cowart. Four women — three of them Republicans — lost bids for the county board last month. All four lost to male candidates.

On the other hand, two more women were elected to countywide office last month: Democrats Darlene Kloeppel as county executive and Laurel Prussing as county treasurer. They join two other women in countywide offices: States Attorney Julia Rietz and Circuit Clerk Katie Blakeman. A fifth potential female officeholder, Diane Michaels, lost her bid for election to a full term as county auditor.

Furthermore, the majority of municipal officials in Champaign-Urbana are women, including the mayors of Champaign (Deb Feinen) and Urbana (Diane Marlin).

Five of the nine Champaign City Council members (including Feinen) are women, as well as five of the seven Champaign school board members and two of the five elected park board members.

In Urbana, nine of 19 municipal officers are women, including five of seven school board members, three of five park board members and one of seven city council members.

County clerk changes

Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten, who left office Friday, thanked the voters and his staff in a message posted on Twitter.

"In eight years," he wrote, "we have made incredible improvements in our office because of wonderful support from the public, the county board and because of an outstanding team with whom I have been so proud to serve."

He also disclosed that five of his staff members were leaving as well: Chief Deputy Clerk Jeremy Cirks, director of training Matt Grandone (who ran for county clerk and lost to Democrat Aaron Ammons), technology specialist Mark Hesse, tax specialist Sasha Greene and Deputy County Clerk Bonnie Meek.

Ammons has major staff positions to fill, with an election coming up in April, and he won't have the help of Michelle Jett, who ran his election campaign. Ammons asked her to stay on to help in the transition, but she remained true to her desire to move to Chicago and be with her partner.

Meanwhile, Ammons said he hasn't hired any staff yet but would do so this month.

Finally, Hulten wished Ammons success as county clerk. The two have been together in the clerk's office nearly every day since the Nov. 6 election.

"Mr. Ammons and I have worked closely to make his transition as smooth as possible," Hulten said. "He is inheriting a very capable staff who will continue to provide excellent service to our customers. I'm hoping for his every success, and I'm ready to quietly assist if requested."

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette columnist.

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