Editorial | It's time to start Election 2018 endorsements

Editorial | It's time to start Election 2018 endorsements

The News-Gazette is backing George Danos for Champaign County auditor and Allen Jones for sheriff.

Champaign County voters have a lot on their plates in the upcoming general election, including five local races for important posts.

They include the regular races for treasurer, sheriff and county clerk, a contest to fill two years left on the terms of the auditor and a new office of county executive, a post akin to being a mayor of the county.

Because early voting has changed the nature of our traditional Election Day, The News-Gazette is beginning endorsements that will run, intermittently, over the next week or two.

Today's endorsements focuses on the offices of county auditor and county sheriff.

Auditor

The News-Gazette endorses Democrat George Danos, a certified public accountant who is more than up to the job. He faces Republican Diane Michaels, a former banker and county board member who was appointed to fill the vacancy created when former auditor John Farney was appointed to fill a vacant treasurer's post.

This is one of those occasions where voters don't have too much to worry about whatever the election result. Michaels has performed adequately in office, but it's our feeling that Danos is the more qualified of the two candidates.

Voters, however, do have a legitimate gripe about this post being up for election. When candidates are elected to serve a four-year term, they have a moral obligation to serve out that term, absent some legitimate extenuating circumstances.

Farney was elected auditor in 2016, barely nosing out Danos in an extremely close race. He sought appointment to fill the treasurer's office when former longtime Treasurer Dan Welch retired before his term expired.

That's two unnecessary vacancies left to politicians, not the voters, to fill. It's a shaky way of doing business.

The auditor serves not only as an overseer of county finances but also as a check on spending practices throughout the county. It's especially important given the county's shaky financial situation.

Danos bills himself, just as Michaels does, as a watchdog. That's fine as far as it goes, but he also asserts that Michaels is somehow beholden to Republicans because of her appointment.

When Democrat Laurel Prussing was auditor, she kept track of what county-board-majority Republicans were doing. But it's not quite so simple now.

Danos' fellow Democrats control the county board, while it's unclear which party will win the county executive office.

So whoever is elected auditor will have to be prepared to look over the shoulders of members of at least one or maybe two parties. That's why any partisanship in this office is unacceptable.

This is the second time The News-Gazette has endorsed Danos. We opted for him in 2012 because of his superior credentials. He lost that race to Farney, whose performance in office prompted our endorsement of him over Danos in the 2016 election.

Now, with both candidates seeking election in their own right, it's again a level playing field. Danos is hoping that the third time is the charm, and in a close call, it's our view that he deserves voters' support.

Sheriff

The News-Gazette endorses Republican Allen Jones, a longtime employee of the sheriff's office who currently holds the title of chief deputy.

This is not a close call. Jones has held virtually every important post in the sheriff's office. His 28 years of law-enforcement experience as well as his educational background and specialized training at prestigious law-enforcement academies make him the obvious choice to succeeding retiring Sheriff Dan Walsh.

Jones' Democratic opponent, Dustin Heuerman, boasts of a long background in law enforcement, including stints as a police officer, police chief and college teacher. But his assertion that his status as a gay man makes him the superior candidate because he represents "diverse cultural perspectives" is un-persuasive.

Running the sheriff's office is a tough job, one in which employees there are routinely asked to do more with less. One of the biggest challenges of the next four years is what to do with the inadequate jail facilities that make it difficult to deal with special category inmates, including the mentally ill. It's been a longstanding headache the county board has failed to address.

But there are many other challenges for the sheriff's office. Given that broad-based reality, voters would be well advised to support the candidate — Jones — who's done virtually everything there is to do in that office and performed well.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
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