November 27, 2022

Republican candidates for Will County sheriff, treasurer and regional superintendent of schools were narrowly leading their current Democratic rivals with about 99.35 percent of precincts reporting.

Incumbent Democratic Clerk Lauren Staley Ferry was leading with 52 percent of the vote, and Plainfield County Board member Gretchen Fritz was just behind at 48 percent.

Staley Ferry said he was proud of the work he had done successfully in elections during a pandemic, while Fritz said he wanted to improve voter confidence in elections.

All vote totals are not official until Nov. 29 as mail-in and provisional ballots are counted.

In the race for sheriff, Republican Jim Reilly had just over 50.13% of the vote over incumbent Democrat Mike Kelley with 49.87%, a vote difference of just 572 votes with more than 200,000 votes cast.

Reilly made the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity Today Act, or SAFE-T Act, a centerpiece of his campaign.

Kelley, who said he has been working to improve the SAFE-T Act after writing a letter urging Gov. JB Pritzker to veto it, said he has equipped his department with body cameras, partnered with school districts to improve safety and has reinstated the department’s K. -9 program

In the treasurer race, Republican Raj “Pi” Pillai had 50.17% of the vote and incumbent Democrat Tim Brophy was slightly ahead with 49.82%

Brophy said he has worked to modernize the treasurer’s office and make it more efficient.

As treasurer, Pillai wanted to improve accountability and transparency and ensure that money is not wasted.

For regional superintendent of schools, Republican Elizabeth Caparelli-Ruff had 51.71 percent of the vote compared to Democrat Shawn Walsh’s 48.29 percent.

Walsh said he is a lifelong resident of Will County who has built relationships with state and local education leaders, while Caparelli-Ruff has a 23-year career in education that he feels would be beneficial to the office.

Most incumbents on the Will County Board were leading their opponents Tuesday night, but the Will County Board will see plenty of new faces as several longtime leaders and incumbents retire.

Only 14 of the county board’s 26 members were on the ballot, which includes six Republicans and eight Democrats. During the redistricting process, the board voted last year to reduce the size of its board from 13 districts with two representatives each to 11 districts with two representatives each, eliminating four seats.

Each of the 11 newly redrawn districts had at least one incumbent seeking re-election in Tuesday’s general election. Currently, Democrats on the board have a slight majority and the balance of power could be tied once the election results are certified.

The county board has staggered terms with some districts over two years and others over four years based on a random drawing. The county board will be sworn in on December 5.

In District 2, incumbent Republicans Judy Ogalla of Monee and Frankie Pretzel of New Lenox were frontrunners for former board member and former Washington Township Supervisor Bob Howard, a Beecher Democrat.

Unofficial totals show Pretzel with 47.21 percent of all votes cast (voters could choose two candidates in board races), Ogalla with 27 percent and Howard with 26 percent with all precincts reporting.

Ogalla is the minority whip and one of the board’s longest-serving members. She will likely be selected for a leadership position and possibly become board chair, majority leader or minority leader once the final votes are counted and the races are confirmed.

Like most Republicans seeking a seat on the county board, both Ogalla and Pretzel were concerned about taxes, including the property tax, the county’s 4-cent-per-gallon gas tax that has been in place since 2020 and the proposed mental health tax on Tuesday’s ballot.

Ogalla said during the campaign, he felt residents were ready for a change in Democratic control of the board.

In District 3, Democratic incumbent Sherry Newquist of Steger had 27.7 percent of the vote and Republican Daniel Butler, a business owner, had 28 percent. with the reports of all the precincts.

Democrat Michael Flanagan, captain of the Calumet City Fire Department, had 26 percent and Republican George Macias, CEO of a security business, had 18.5 percent

In District 4, Republicans Steve Balich, a 10-year Will County Board member, and Mokena Trustee James Richmond led despite opposition from Homer Township Democratic Organization leader Sheri Boniecki -Cooling, and Democrat Andrew Englebrecht, both of Lockport.

Unofficial totals show Balich with 35% of the vote, Richmond with 26.5%, Boniecki-Cooling with 21.7% and Englebrecht with 17%.

Balich, the Homer Township supervisor, faced opposition from an organized group of Homer Township residents concerned about his efforts earlier this year to develop a senior housing community in a farm owned by the municipality and put two other pieces of open space property dedicated for sale to pay for a community center. The proposals failed, but residents against the open space sale said they don’t trust Balich and believed he would try to sell the property again.

Members of the open space preservation group are both Republicans and Democrats and urged voters on social media to split their vote between Richmond and Boniecki-Cooling.

Balich, who said the race was one of the toughest he’s had, said that as one of the board’s longest serving members, he hopes to be tapped for a leadership position. He said he can talk to County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, a Democrat, about issues and policies.

Boniecki-Cooling said she was ready to be a new face on the county board. Too often residents didn’t know their county board member, and she wanted to change that through town hall meetings or open houses.

His next goal is to continue building the Democratic Organization of the municipality of Homer and to continue holding its representatives accountable. He said even if he didn’t win a county board seat, he’s helped show that options are available and that Democrats will have more opportunities next time around.

In District 5, which includes parts of Crest Hill, Lockport, New Lenox and Joliet, incumbent Annette Parker, a Republican, received 10,708 votes, and Democrat Sherry Williams received 8,015 votes with nearly 84 percent of precincts reporting. Republican Philip Juarez received 6,575 votes. Democrat Scott Pointon received 5,770 votes.

The 10th District, which includes Naperville and Aurora, was led by Republican Julie Berkowicz and Democrat Meta Mueller, the current board majority leader.

Unofficial totals show Mueller with 30.5% of the vote, Berkowicz with 29.7%, Democrat Khadija “DJ” Sufi with 22.5% and Republican Vasavi Chakka with 17.4% with all reporting districts

Around Will County, incumbent Democrats Joe Van Duyne of Wilmington, Denise Winfrey of Joliet, Natalie Coleman of Plainfield and Jacqueline Traynere of Bolingbrook were leading in their respective districts. On the Republican side, incumbent Raquel Mitchell of Bolingbrook leads the 9th District.

Incumbent Democrat Margaret Tyson of Bolingbrook was in District 9 with about 96 percent of precincts reporting.

Incumbent Minority Leader Mike Fricilone, a Republican from Homer Glen, opted against term limits and decided not to run. He opposed the redistricting process that Democrats passed, saying it was done to help his chances of retaining control of the board.

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Fricilone said he believed the Republicans running for the seat promoted the message of providing great service while holding the line on taxes.

Current board chairwoman Mimi Cowan, a Naperville Democrat, also chose not to seek re-election, but said the Democrats running were respected in their districts and strong leaders.

Both Fricilone and Cowan said they have been working on the parameters for allocating about $134 million in federal pandemic grant funds, setting up future boards for success in distributing the funds.

Mueller said Will County Democrats promoted maintaining strong infrastructure, keeping the tax rate low and protecting elections. The new renewable gas plant generates revenue and clean energy, he said.

Democrats will sit down and discuss future leadership positions after the election results.

Republican and Democratic leaders said they will work with newly elected board members to train them to become effective board members.

Michelle Mullins is a freelance journalist.

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