The political dispute between Champaign County Executive Darlene Kloeppel and her fellow Democrats on the county board has been dressed in up respectable issues language like “process” and “equity.”
But the simple fact is that, because they do not see eye-to-eye politically, the two sides just don’t have much use for each other.
Consequently, progressive board Democrats are at war with Kloeppel, just like they have been at war with previous Democratic board leaders for years now.
Kloeppel recently announced that she won’t run for re-election, giving the self-styled progressives a big win. They’ve since come up with one of their own, board member Steve Summers, as their choice to succeed Kloeppel.
But it’s a long time until November 2022, so those who participate in or follow county government can look forward to a long and bitter cold war.
Kloeppel recently fired a shot across the progressives’ bow, tweaking them on the “equity” issue as it relates to redrawing the board’s 11 districts.
Board Democrats, led by Chairman Kyle Patterson, have made it clear they wanted no help from Kloeppel on the redistricting issue. They approved a gerrymandered “equity” map whose main attribute is that it creates two majority-minority districts that will elect four Black Democrats to the 22-member board.
After Kloeppel vetoed their map, the board overrode her veto.
Undaunted, Kloeppel has since launched a counterattack that is even more equitable than the progressives’ equity map.
It not only features three majority-minority districts, but has the added advantage of creating districts that are uniform in size, a fundamental concept of real equity.
Its impact on other districts progressives drew to elect more people like them is unclear.
Kloeppel pointed out that districts in the progressives’ equity map have as much as a 17 percent variance in population, a difference that makes a joke of the “one man, one vote” concept at the root of a fair map process.
The progressives drew their maps using population estimates while Kloeppel used actual 2020 Census figures for her proposed map.
She’s expected to present the map at a meeting tonight. But no one should expect her foes on the board to welcome it with open arms.
The map business is just a part of the power struggle. Take last week’s fight over Kloeppel’s proposed appointment to replace former District 11 representative Titianna Ammons.
Ammons, the daughter of local politicos Carol and Aaron Ammons, resigned her seat shortly after being elected in November 2020. Now Kloeppel and board progressives are fighting over who will replace her.
The progressives want to appoint Wayne Williams, but that move is compromised by the fact that Williams already holds elective office, as Cunningham Township assessor. Kloeppel objected — legitimately so — to the idea that Williams should hold two local elective offices.
So she came up with her own choice, one promptly rejected by the board.
Now it looks like Titianna Ammons’ post will remain empty until it’s filled by election in November 2022.
Board Democrats insist that Kloeppel should have nominated Williams because he was approved by the Champaign County Democratic Party, which is led by state Rep. Carol Ammons.
But the law provides that the nomination must be made by the executive, unmistakable evidence that Kloeppel’s opinion matters, too.
The parties already have crossed swords over Kloeppel’s appointment power, an argument she won after Circuit Judge Jason Bohm ruled that the county executive holds the power of appointment under an executive form of government. Bohm ruled that the board, like most legislative bodies, has the power to confirm appointments.
Board progressives are appealing Bohm’s decision. But they will — undoubtedly and much to their consternation — lose at the appellate court level. The only question then is whether the progressives will still be so disconnected from legal reality that they’ll ask the Illinois Supreme Court for a review the high court will deny.
The battle between Kloeppel and board Democrats raises a question. Where are the Republicans?
Unfortuately for them, county board Republicans are in the wilderness. Board progressives dislike them even more than Kloeppel.
But because the GOP doesn’t carry the weight it once did in Champaign County, its skirmishes with the progressives are purely preliminary events.
The main event is between the Democratic executive and progressive Democrats on the board.
Jim Dey, a member of
The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or