Unless there are some significant changes in the election ballot, it won't be much of a primary election in March or general election in November for voters interested in Champaign County government.
That's because, for now at least, incumbent county officials have scared off potential challengers.
Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh, Clerk Mark Shelden and Treasurer Dan Welch, all Republicans, are without challengers following the completion of the Dec. 12-19 filing period. Champaign County Democrats still could choose candidates to run for those offices after the primary election, and it would be no great surprise if they did so. But given the obvious lack of interest, it's hard to imagine that Democrats will come up with any serious challengers, and that's too bad.
Good government thrives on competitive elections, and trouble generally ensues when officeholders or political parties start to feel too comfortable.
The problem, of course, cuts both ways. Republicans were prepared to concede the local Illinois House seat to Democratic state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson until Republican Rex Bradfield entered the contest without the active support of local GOP leaders. It looks as if Bradfield will be running on his own, and that's hard to do.
Similarly, Circuit Judge Jeff Ford, a Republican, is running without opposition. In his case, there will be no Democratic opponent because state law does not allow judicial candidates on the ballot unless they formally file petitions to seek office.
Most of the seats up for election on the county board also are lacking contested elections, largely because political gerrymandering by majority Democrats has ensured that all nine districts are controlled by one party or the other.
That's not to say it would be impossible for a candidate of one party to win a seat in a district controlled by the other, just that it would be highly unlikely. Nonetheless, Democrat Bob Morrison is challenging Republican incumbent county board member Chris Doenitz in District 1 and Republican Art Westle in taking on Democratic incumbent Lorraine Cowart in District 5.
Meanwhile, a party purification effort by angry Democrats has spawned all-out war in Democratic-controlled District 9. Incumbent Urbana Democrats Barbara Wysocki and Steve Beckett are being challenged by fellow Democrats Lisa Bell and former board member Robert Kirchner. Beckett and Wysocki drew the ire of fellow Democrats when they declined to support the re-election of Democrat Patricia Avery as county board chairwoman. Instead, the two Democrats and another board Democrat, Brendan McGinty, joined with board Republicans to elect Wysocki chairwoman, angering Democrats and giving rise to the current effort to drive Beckett and Wysocki off the board and out of the local Democratic Party.
All in all, it's an unappetizing lack of choices facing voters. Clearly, both parties have a lot of work to do before they will be able to attract good candidates and fill the ballot from top to bottom.
In the meantime, the public will pay a price because local government will not be as good as it should be.