CHAMPAIGN — Champaign County Republican leaders will have four candidates to choose from Thursday night when they select their party's nominee for circuit court clerk.
The special meeting of precinct committeemen officially became necessary Tuesday when the winner of the March 20 primary election, former state Sen. Rick Winkel, formally declined the nomination. He had withdrawn from the election contest before the primary, but too late to have his name taken off the ballot.
The four candidates to submit applications to be considered by the precinct committeemen Thursday are Katie Blakeman of Champaign, Alexander Ruggieri of Tuscola, Stephanie Holderfield of Mahomet and Sam L. Anderson of Champaign. Anderson, 34, submitted her application on Tuesday.
The candidate chosen will face Democrat Barbara Wysocki of Urbana in the November general election.
Anderson, who like Ruggieri is a graduate of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan, works at a practice in Champaign. She is married to Garrett Anderson, a retired Army sergeant who was injured in Iraq in 2005, and the couple has two children.
In her application, she said she had been a volunteer in Rep. Chapin Rose's state Senate campaign. She said that she is familiar with the circuit clerk's office and "will work hard to maintain and improve public relations by offering professional and courteous service to the citizens of Champaign County."
Anderson said she hoped to "expand the online services with more information, documents and forms. I will investigate the viability of electronic filing as part of my efforts to increase organization and access to the circuit clerk's office."
Meanwhile, an influential Republican precinct committeeman on Monday endorsed Blakeman.
Mark Shelden, a former county clerk and now the chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, wrote that he believed that Blakeman's "experience in management, customer service, database technology and records management make her the strongest person to lead the circuit clerk's office."
Blakeman, 32, is assistant director of development at the University of Illinois' division of student affairs.
Shelden emailed other Republicans to announce his support for Blakeman.
"I know first hand the challenges of dealing with the county's IT systems and believe that Katie's hands-on experience with the nuts and bolts of database management will provide her the tools to work with technology aspects of the job," he said.
"Holding a similar role in document management, I know that Katie has the necessary skills to bring document management within the court system to the next level. And having myself dealt with hundreds of thousands of customers, I see in Katie the characteristics that I value in dealing with the public: friendliness and integrity.
"Perhaps most important though, for my endorsement, is my belief that being a county official requires first and foremost that one be a good listener with a collaborative spirit. I think that those who witnessed what I was able to accomplish in 14 years in office would generally agree that many good things happened. If you talked to me about those, or heard me speak, you know that I rarely failed to mention that they were the product of me working with my staff, other departments, voters, other counties, and anyone who brought a good idea to me. It's just impossible to do the job of county clerk, or circuit clerk, without working with others to achieve goals that serve the community."
Shelden avoided mentioning Holderfield in his message, except to say that he hoped that both she and Anderson "will continue to be involved" with the local Republican party.
Holderfield said she still believed she would win the party's support Thursday night.
"I'm going to stand on the fact that 250 people signed my petition, I campaigned for 10 months and 7,888 voters voted for me" at the primary election, she said. (In the final results of the primary, which were certified Tuesday, Holderfield received 7,919 votes while Winkel got 8,159).
"I'm very confident that the precinct committeemen will recognize that there is a candidate who actually was on the ballot, and so I feel confident that regardless of Mark Shelden's endorsement, the precinct committeemen understand that I've worked very, very hard. I was in it from the start."
Holderfield said she has been endorsed by county Coroner Duane Northrup, who sent a letter on her behalf.
Holderfield, 50, submitted her official application for the post on Monday. In it she said she has experience in database and web technology, and that "public service, managerial experience and customer relations are my strong points."
"I have been told and believe that I am a high-energy person, which is useful in focusing on all aspects of the position I am seeking," she wrote. "My strong work ethic coupled with innovation and collaboration would make this position an ideal fit for me and the citizens of Champaign County."
The fourth candidate, Ruggieri, is 34 and is an Illinois Army National Guard veteran who now works at the Grainger Engineering Library at the University of Illinois. Married with two children, Ruggieri told The News-Gazette last week that he is temporarily living in Tuscola.