All's well that ends well
Dogged Democrats finally find a candidate to take on incumbent Republican Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten.
With about 10 weeks to go before the Nov. 4 election, local Democrats have finally landed a candidate for the Champaign County clerk's post.
First they had no one to challenge incumbent Republican Gordy Hulten. Then, they had someone who said he'd either accept or not accept the party's nomination, after a primary election in which no Democrat filed for the office. Finally, that really tentative nominee, Wayne Williams, said he had decided to withdraw his candidacy, and Democrats instead nominated Scott Hays, a rural Mahomet man, to take Williams' spot on the ballot.
Hays, who is 51, has previously run for the county board and a township supervisor's post. He also was active in the Champaign-Urbana Smoke Free Alliance, which played a key role in encouraging the adoption of local anti-smoking legislation.
That's he taken such a circuitous route to this campaign may be unusual, but it provides a good result for voters — they'll get to choose in the clerk's race between Hulten, a veteran politico, and Hays, a University of Illinois employee who works at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs.
As much as candidates might like to run without opposition, it's unhealthy when the body politic has no choice.
It doesn't necessarily mean the unchallenged candidate, whether an incumbent or not, is a poor public official or a bad candidate. But lack of opposition breeds complacency and affords a lack of accountability that poorly serves the public.
Exhibit A for that proposition is the Illinois General Assembly, where voter choice has become a bad joke because gerrymandering of legislative districts has rendered the public's wishes moot. Less than 20 of the 137 House and Senate seats up for election in November feature anything close to a competitive election. Just 12 of 19 Senate races feature candidates from both parties, and only 50 of 118 House races feature both a Democrat and a Republican.
Despite Hays' addition to the roster in county races, the lack of competition is striking. Democrats didn't field candidates for sheriff and treasurer while gerrymandered county board districts resulted in Republicans mostly avoiding Democratic turf in Champaign-Urbana and Democrats mostly avoiding Republican turf in rural areas.
The Democrats' determination to field a candidate reflects the zeal they've shown to challenge Hulten after the March primary election resulted in voter tabulation errors in some races. Hulten insisted the errors were computer-generated and caused by the State Board of Elections.
But Democrats smell an opportunity, and now they'll get their chance to try to take advantage of it.