URBANA — Rick Winkel, who withdrew from the race for Champaign County Circuit Court Clerk weeks ago, was the winner Tuesday in a stunning Republican primary victory over Stephanie Holderfield of Mahomet.
Winkel got 8,133 votes to 7,888 for Holderfield, a county board member form Mahomet.
The result now could end up in the courts, said Habeeb Habeeb, the treasurer of the Champaign County Republican Party who is likely to become the new chairman next month.
Or it could end up with the party's precinct committeemen.
Or maybe it will be decided by County Clerk Gordy Hulten, said Habeeb.
"I'd like to find out what the rules are," said Habeeb. "If it's an easy case where Gordy can declare that Stephanie was the winner, then I'd like to move on."
Habeeb said he was startled by the vote for Winkel, a former state senator who had dropped out of the race earlier this month to take on a new job at the University of Illinois.
"I honestly expected her to win. This is all new. I'm surprised that Rick is winning, only because I thought that more people would have known that he dropped out. I really haven't had a chance to digest this," Habeeb said.
Habeeb said he didn't think the vote for Winkel was a deliberate attempt to sabotage Holderfield's candidacy.
"No, I do not think it was deliberate," he said. "I know there are a lot of people who may think that, but I think the name Rick Winkel just is familiar and recognizable to a lot of voters."
Even if the issue goes to precinct committeemen, it's unclear which ones would decide — those who have been in office two years or those elected Tuesday.
"If Gordy takes his time to make a decision and it is, say, 10 days and we end up having to call a meeting, it may be that the meeting happens after our party convention, which will be Wednesday, April 18," Habbeb said. "If the meeting happens after that the new precinct committeemen will be in force and they will make the decision. If it happens before it will be the old group."
Habeeb said he didn't want to suggest that Holderfield should be the GOP candidate in November.
"I don't want to bias the precinct committeemen," he said. "I will be one vote of many. I'm not withholding my support for Stephanie but I'm new at this and I don't want to say anything that I will regret later."
Holderfield could not be reached for comment.