Who’s running for what in 2021?
In the aftermath of a tough election year, many are ready to take a break from politics — at least for a while.
But the calendar says no. Municipal elections are in the offing — the primary in February and the general election in April.
The last day for candidates to file to run for local office was Monday, and the final tally shows that there are a handful of attention-catching local races, including two primary contests that will put a strain on party loyalties.
The rules are different in Champaign, where the city operates under a nonpartisan form of government administered by a city manager, than in Urbana, where the mayor and council run as Democrats and Republicans under a mayor-alderman system.
Two of the most interesting citywide contests are in Urbana, while Champaign offers one notable contest.
Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin, who is seeking her second four-year term, has three opponents for now, although that number may fall in the event of petition challenges.
Candidates always seem to come out of the woodwork in races of this nature, and that’s especially so in Urbana. Alderman Dennis Roberts, who recently informed the public that he was done with politics after several terms on the city council, surprised a lot of people by challenging Marlin in the Democratic Party primary.
Urbana is solidly Democratic, to the point that no Republican has raised his or her head in the mayor’s race. So the winner of the Democratic primary will likely be elected.
The other Urbana primary race that will be fascinating to watch is for city clerk, a low-profile but well-compensated office, where Phyllis Clark is seeking re-election to a position from which she has already once retired.
Clark served for years in that office before making way for Charles Smyth, a former alderman who was chosen by voters to take the retiring Clark’s place.
But Smyth resigned to deal with health issues, and Clark was appointed to fill in. Now she faces fellow Democrat Titianna Ammons, a newly elected Champaign County Board member who is the daughter of County Clerk Aaron and state Rep. Carol Ammons.
Clark has her own constituency, not to mention vast experience. But Titianna Ammons will have the benefit of her parents’ political network, and it will be fascinating to see if the Ammons organization — remember, Carol Ammons is chairwoman of the county Democratic Party — can further expand its political footprint.
Over in Champaign, Democratic township Supervisor Andy Quarnstrom will face university employee Rita Conerly. She’s made a name for herself in recent months by leading a series of community protests, including one where the Champaign Police Department was vandalized.
There are, of course, other lower-profile races for city council in both cities.
The usual problem, of course, is with us, and it’s a big one. Because of the timing of the election, the vast majority of voters will not cast ballots.
If, as our public officials declare ad nauseam, it’s vitally important to vote, why don’t they hold municipal elections at the same time as the general elections held every two years? The turnout would be far higher.
Some might say that’s too many races for voters to consider, but it’s not.
Voters faced a vast array of choices Nov. 3 and handled them well enough. What’s the harm of putting municipal races on the ballot as well?
The most-likely answer is that municipal officials in cities where politics is more a vocation than avocation like the current situation well enough. After all, if fewer people vote, candidates backed by powerful, well-financed organizations have a better chance of prevailing.
Perhaps someday, in a time when Illinois is less corrupt than it is now, the Legislature will address that important issue. In the meantime, strap on your seat belts, it’s election season — again.