Editorial | Local Democrats turn races into routs

Editorial | Local Democrats turn races into routs

Champaign County Democrats worked hard this election season, providing a textbook example of how to organize and win seats.

Those who saw Tuesday's political beat-down of Champaign County Republicans coming either kept it to themselves or shared it only with friends.

But it was clear to all after the votes were counted that local Democrats pulled off a series of victories that will go down in the record books.

Democrats have been competitive for years in countywide races, winning contests like auditor, state's attorney and recorder of deeds. But this time, they took their brooms out of the closet and swept all five countywide races. They didn't just win, they did so handily, the final numbers revealing a dramatic increase in turnout of voters who appeared to vote Democratic in lockstep.

When it was over, longtime Republican County Clerk Gordy Hulten, who ran for county executive, was defeated. So were the incumbent Republican treasurer and auditor as well as a superbly qualified Republican candidate for sheriff.

One of the biggest Democratic victories was that of Darlene Kloeppel, who will be the county's first executive. That post is akin to being a mayor of Champaign County, and it will be interesting to see how Kloeppel, a former employee at the county's regional planning commission, turns this important office from an idea to a reality.

In addition to the executive post, Democrats will control the offices of auditor, treasurer, clerk and sheriff.

Republicans retain the offices of circuit clerk, coroner and recorder of deeds. But the GOP probably would have lost them, too, if they had been up for election.

The results reaffirm an important aphorism — be careful what you ask for, because you might get it.

For starters, the idea of creating the office of county executive was largely Republican-driven. It was intended to be a means of getting around the Democrat-controlled county board with a chief operating officer elected by all the voters of the county.

If past could be counted on to be prologue, it was a reasonable tactic for the GOP to adopt. But the political plan behind the idea went up in smoke. Voters can only hope it proves to be better policy for the public than it was politics for the Republicans.

The other move that backfired was the decision of John Farney to give up the auditor's office to which he was elected in 2016 to fill a vacancy at treasurer. As a consequence, both offices were up for election Tuesday and were won by Democrats.

If just for propriety's sake, the public is best served if elected officials serve the terms of office to which they are elected instead of brazenly positioning themselves for advancement to more comfortable political climes. Sometimes that approach is better for the public officials as well.

Having won, the Democrats' challenge is to savor their triumphs and then focus on the important job of governing. Republicans, too, have a challenge — figuring out how to win future elections against an energized Democratic opposition.

If both parties embrace a lively competition in pursuit of strong, frugal and efficient local government, the public will benefit.

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