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Races To Watch As Chicago Surburbs Head To The Polls

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Cook County ballot

Cook County Board of Elections workers count paper ballots in this 2010 file photo.

M. Spencer Green

Voters in Chicago suburbs will have the final say in hundreds of races in Tuesday’s election, but many of them won’t see a lot of choices on the ballot.

An analysis from the Daily Herald found only 30 percent of this year’s races in Cook, DuPage, Lake and Kane counties are contested. And some of those races have interesting twists.

Morning Shift host Tony Sarabiaspoke with Kerry Lester, a columnist and senior writer at the Daily Herald, about the decline in candidates and five races she’s watching closely.

On the trend of uncontested races

Kerry Lester: We’re finding that people feel it’s really a thankless job. Things like social media are making them feel like they’re getting attacked by all sides. Everybody’s watching everything they post and, these positions, they’re not paid, so it’s just kind of like, “Why is it worth it anymore?”

Mayor of Bolingbrook

Candidates: Jacqueline Traynere and incumbent Roger Claar*

Lester: You have a three-decade incumbent local mayor (Roger Claar). He was a really big Trump supporter. He was one of the few Republicans out in the suburbs to hold a fundraiser for Trump in Illinois. So when he came up for re-election, some Democrats viewed supporting his opponent, who is a Will County board member named Jackie Traynere, as kind of cathartic.

Mayor of Aurora

Candidates: Richard “Rick” Guzman and Richard C. Irvin

Lester: If you turn to Aurora when you talk about the (House Speaker Michael) Madigan influence or the (President Donald) Trump influence, you had (Democratic) state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, who lost in a four-way primary in February. The day after that race, I got a call from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration. We were just chatting on background, but they were kind of crowing about this, because they saw this as one of the first dominoes to fall in that Madigan’s reputation would hurt local candidates at the bottom rungs of the political level.

I will be interested, in particular, to see in Aurora which of the two challengers that Chapa LaVia did not best will come out (victorious). They’ll make history because it will either be Aurora’s first African-American mayor or Aurora’s first Filipino-American mayor.

School District 41 Referendum in Glen Ellyn

Lester: This is pretty interesting. In Glen Ellyn School District 41, there’s a fairly innocuous referendum on the ballot Tuesday. It’s $24.2 million (that) would deal with some infrastructure improvements at a middle school and some elementary schools -- getting rid of trailers, expanding the classrooms, making sure bathrooms (are) compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But there is a parental group that is coordinating a campaign supporting the referendum, and they sent in a Freedom of Information Act request to the school district and asked for the parent contact details -- so email addresses and whatnot to contact them as they launched their campaign.

Now this has gotten parents up in arms because a lot of parents view those emails as just to be used for emergency purposes. So I think it put a bad taste in their mouth for something they otherwise would have supported.

Des Plaines City Council

Candidates: Complete list can be found here.

Lester: I have a special bit of interest in this one. This is my hometown and I kind of shaking my head as I read my colleague’s report.

The mayor and the city council are at odds. The mayor is a young guy -- he used to work for state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, he is on his second term -- and he wants to make a number of reforms. Des Plaines aldermen get free health insurance; he thinks that’s a perk they shouldn’t have. So they’ve been divided for months on end.

But months ago, somebody leaked to the Daily Herald a story -- and the council members have been upset about this, they want to find the rat -- and so they have voted to spend over $30,000 on finding the source of this, which includes having council members take lie detector tests. Isn’t that incredible?

Village President of Wheeling

Candidates: Incumbent Dean Argiris, Mike Kurgan and Patrick A. Horcher

Lester: In Wheeling, there is a long-term mayor (Village President Dean Argiris). There have been some stories lately about him using a taxpayer-funded SUV and a village credit card for his own personal gain. There could be an upset there.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the 'play' button to listen to the entire interview.

* - Order of candidates as they appear on the ballot. 

For more of WBEZ's coverage of this month's suburban elections, listen to our election playlist here.

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