Given the events of the past two years, voters should be especially attuned to just how important it is that our Champaign County officeholders perform at high levels. With that in mind, here are our preferred candidates for five local offices on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Democratic incumbent George Danos, who was elected in 2018 to
fill the balance of a two-year term, has performed well in office and, in our view, deserves re-election to a full four-year term.
It’s been our practice in the past to stick with county elected officials — no matter their political party — if they have been effective public officials.
After all, these are largely administrative offices that require professional management, not a member of a particular political party or a follower of a liberal or conservative philosophy, to serve the public well.
A certified public accountant, Danos has not just been an effective steward but has also avoided the partisan problems that have plagued other county officeholders.
There is simply no reason to make a change.
That is not to denigrate Danos’ opponent, Republican Gary Maxwell. An engineer and land surveyor, he was an effective member of the Champaign County Board and is quite familiar with county government.
If elected, voters could be confident Maxwell could do the job. However, there is no good reason to make a change just for the sake of it.
During her eight years in office, Republican incumbent Katie Blakeman has turned the circuit clerk’s post from a routine topic of courthouse complaint into a reliable and well-run organization that serves both the needs of the public and the courts.
For that, she has our enthusiastic recommendation for a third term.
The Champaign County judiciary is in the process of moving to a paper-free operation. Given how well Blakeman has handled previous challenges, particularly those related to technology, the public can be confident in the ultimate success of this endeavor under her leadership.
Blakeman is opposed by Democrat Susan McGrath, a lawyer with 38 years of experience that includes 15 years as an assistant state’s attorney in the civil division. McGrath has also served on the county board.
She is steeped in experience related to local government. Doubtless, she can do the job of circuit clerk.
However, there’s no reason to fix what not only isn’t broken, but running quite well. Voters are well advised to stick with Blakeman. She’s proved herself worthy of support time and again.
Once again, our endorsement goes to an effective incumbent, Republican Duane Northrup. He’s held this post since 2004, conducted thousands of death investigations and undergone hundreds of hours of training.
Over that time, he’s been involved in a number of professional organizations related to the sometimes grisly and often heartbreaking job of coroner.
There’s nothing glamorous about conducting death investigations, no matter whether they are natural or the result of some kind of tragedy. Whatever the challenges, Northrup has proved himself able to carry out the coroner’s responsibilities in an effective, empathetic and professional manner.
He’s opposed by Democratic social worker Chaundra Bishop. Give her credit for offering voters a choice, but Bishop brings little in the way of coroner-type credentials to this contest.
Making a change here is asking for trouble that is wisely avoided by re-electing Northrup.
Recorder of deeds
Not to sound like a broken record, but it’s silly to replace an effective incumbent, and veteran Republican Recorder Mark Shelden is an outstanding public official.
A creative thinker who’s always trying to figure out how to do more with less, Shelden has presided
over a series of positive technical changes in the office and deserves another term.
The question here is not so much who should be elected recorder, it’s whether the recorder should be elected at all or even exist as a separate office.
Other counties in Illinois are merging the recorder’s office with another county office. There’s also talk of appointing, rather than electing, a recorder to ensure professional management.
Democrat Mike Ingram, who represents District 6 on the county board, advocates eliminating the recorder’s office and contends that he will devote himself to that goal if he is elected. Shelden, too, has proposed that the office be appointed or consolidated.
However, the future of the office depends on the county board, which must put elimination/consolidation of the recorder’s office on the ballot, and the voters, who must approve it.
Ironically, Ingram has more power to help eliminate the office as a county board member than he would if elected recorder. He would have a vote as a county board member compared with a platform as recorder.
What’s important to remember is that whomever is elected recorder actually will have to run the office for the next four years. Advocating abolition of the office is not the equivalent of administering the office.
Given Shelden’s excellent track record as a onetime county clerk and the current recorder, he’s the obvious choice for voters.
What a revolting development the 2018 treasurer’s election turned into. That’s why voters will elect another one in 2020.
Confusion has reigned since the 2018 election of Laurel Prussing, giving voters a better understanding of what can happen when they make mistakes in choosing officeholders.
Prussing resigned earlier this year and was replaced by an appointee, Marisol Hughes. For whatever reason, things are hardly any better under her.
Now, Democrat Cassandra Johnson and Republican Ted Myhre are running for the balance of Prussing’s four-year term. That means voters can look forward to another treasurer’s election — the third in four years — in 2022.
The immediate issue, however, is who will be chosen to fix what seems to be universally regarded as a mess.
Johnson is a retired sergeant in the U.S. Army who moved to Champaign County to attend school.
Myhre, a member of the Sadorus Village Board, contends that his business and information technology experience will help him “put out the dumpster fire” in the treasurer’s office.
Both Johnson and Myhre entered the campaign late. Johnson, largely based on the support of county Democratic Chairwoman and state Rep. Carol Ammons of Urbana, was slated by precinct committee members, while Republicans did the same for Myhre.
Frankly, we don’t know what to make of the candidates in this race.
Considering their lack of significant experience in public life and the buttoned-up campaign conducted in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s impossible to draw any firm conclusions.
For that reason, The News-Gazette makes no endorsement in the treasurer’s race.