CHAMPAIGN — Disappointed again in her quest to become the Republican nominee for Champaign County circuit court clerk, Stephanie Holderfield said Friday that she plans to support the GOP ticket this fall and to remain a Republican.
But she avoided saying whether she would challenge the decision that kept her from the Republican nomination. Holderfield finished second in the March 20 Republican primary election to former state Sen. Rick Winkel, who had already withdrawn from the race.
Republican precinct committeemen Thursday night chose Katie Blakeman of Champaign to be GOP nominee for circuit court clerk in the November general election. Holderfield, a county board member from Mahomet, finished second. The other candidates for the appointment, Sam Anderson and Alexander Ruggieri, received no votes.
"While I am disappointed, I do accept the decision of the precinct committeemen," Holderfield said. "I do look forward to remaining politically active and I plan to concentrate on serving my constituents on the Champaign County Board."
But she declined to say whether or not she would file a lawsuit challenging state election laws or their interpretation by County Clerk Gordy Hulten and State's Attorney Julia Rietz. Holderfield's attorney, Mark Hewitt, had suggested last month that any votes for Winkel should not have been counted.
"I would like to know why everyone is so concerned with that? I truly am intrigued why people have fixated on that question," Holderfield said. "I don't understand why people are so focused and fixated on what my decision would be. I was advised to have an attorney to help me sift through this extraordinarily difficult issue.
"If I do anything, it will be to fight a good fight against changing some of these very, very vague statutes in election law. If I need to shout from the rooftop, we need election law reform. That's what I'm more focused on, shining a bright light on the vagueness of election laws. Voters should be upset with no clear-cut answer. That's what I have been focused on, not whether there's going to be a lawsuit, but why we have such vague statutes."
Holderfield called Blakeman "very, very sweet" and said she was not angry with her.
"I've known Katie a long time," she said.
Weeks ago, Holderfield said she believed she would have the support of 75 percent of the precinct committeemen (she ended up with votes from 30 of 70 voting; six others were absent, and party treasurer Habeeb Habeeb, who ran the meeting, abstained).
Asked whether she thought she had been double-crossed by some of the committeemen, Holderfield said, "I will leave them to answer that question."
Blakeman, meanwhile, said she would concentrate on fundraising. Her Democratic opponent in the fall election, Barbara Wysocki, has name recognition from her time on the county board, including a term as chairwoman.
Wysocki has raised more than $4,600 this year and reported having $2,880 on hand as of March 31.
Blakeman has been a development officer at the University of Illinois, and told committeemen she has raised more than $2.5 million in that position.
"That's what I've been doing for the last five years at the university, and I know there are a lot of people in this room tonight who I'll be calling, asking them to go to coffee and asking them for money," she said.
Asked how she would differentiate herself from Wysocki, Blakeman said she would stress her qualifications for the $96,570 a year position.
"My background as a qualified information professional and having customer service experience, management experience and budget experience are all things that would qualify me for the position," she said, noting that Wysocki "very nearly lost her primary to someone who was well qualified for the job (she beat Lori Hansen by 20 votes) and so I think that having a candidate who is qualified in that way would be one of the ways to beat her in the general election."
Blakeman promised to "run a positive, professional and winning campaign that will reflect well on all of the other candidates as well as the Champaign County Republican Party."
Anderson, a Champaign attorney and another applicant for the GOP nomination, said after the meeting that she had been asked about running for state's attorney. So far there is no Republican opposition to incumbent Julia Rietz.
"The state's attorney's race was brought up," she said, "but it deserves a lot of thought before entering that race."