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updated: 11/1/2010 5:53 PM

Lake County voters get their say

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Whether it be with relief the bombardment of nasty political ads is ending or with conviction that at last your chance to have a say has arrived, voters statewide and locally head to the polls with a lot at stake.

In Lake County, like elsewhere, Democrats have invested heavily to defend their majority in the General Assembly against Republicans who regard the election as an opportunity to diminish that power.

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In recent weeks, both parties have cried foul over the tone of campaign advertising while acknowledging a sense of voter revolt that can transcend individual candidates.

"It's a weird year," said state Sen. Terry Link, the Lake County Democratic party leader. "What happens is that good people sometimes get defeated and it's not their own fault."

Bob Cook, who heads the Lake County Republican party said he was not surprised at the resources Democrats have brought to bear.

"There's a vested interest by a lot of people to keep things the way they are," he said.

And politicians on both sides are looking to convince those on the fence that their way will be best.

"We know the battleground in all these races will be independents," said Larry Falbe, a Mettawa village trustee and Republican political blogger. "I think there are a lot of people upset and don't know where to turn."

Lake County voters will have a say locally across the spectrum. A state senate seat and six contested state representative races are on the ballot, although some districts include portions of Cook County.

Seven Lake County Board seats are contested in what could be a historic result as Democrats have an chance to take a majority on the board. County board members double as forest preserve commissioners.

On the pocketbook side, several referendum questions could have an impact on how much property taxes residents pay.

Following is a brief overview of some of the races and issues to watch Tuesday.

•State Senate District 31:

Incumbent Democrat Michael Bond of Grayslake faces a tough challenge from Republican County Board Chairwoman Suzi Schmidt of Lake Villa. The candidates have amassed more than $1.1 million for the campaign, with each showing substantial support from party leaders.

Bond is completing his first four-year term as state senator. Schmidt has been on the county board since 1988. Both emphasized economic issues and jobs as priorities, and agreed tax increases are not the way to solve the state's budget problems.

The district covers the northern half of Lake County.

• State Representative District 59:

Democrat Carol Sente, a small-business owner from Vernon Hills, was appointed to the seat about a year ago when Kathy Ryg left for another job. Democrats have held the post for more than a decade and, Sente, with a big assist from state leaders, has received more than four times as much in cash and services as her Republican opponent, Dan Sugrue, an attorney from Green Oaks.

Sugrue was easily defeated two years ago by Ryg but his chances may have improved since. Republicans say this race is an example of how Democrat candidates will owe state party leaders and be unlikely to stand up to them. Sente, who describes herself as independent and moderate, says that's not the case.

Both have identified state spending as a priority.

The 59th includes several communities stretching from Wheeling in Cook County north to include portions of Buffalo Grove, Lincolnshire, Vernon Hills and Waukegan and neighboring towns.

•Lake County Board:

Incumbent Republican Aaron Lawlor, who was appointed to replace Pam Newton about a year ago in the 18th District, faces Democrat Kay Hoogland, an attorney from Long Grove.

In what has become one of the most expensive county board races, Lawlor, of Vernon Hills, says the county has cut millions from its budget. Hoogland maintains more could be done.

The district covers portions of Vernon Hills, Hawthorn Woods, Long Grove, Buffalo Grove, and, Mundelein.

Another closely watched county board race is District 7 in the Gurnee area, where longtime Republican incumbent Steve Carlson, who narrowly won re-election in 2006, is challenged by Democrat David Weinstein.

•Referendums:

Nearly two dozen questions will be on ballots in Lake County. Some are advisory involving state pension reform but several ask for more money.

Voters are asked whether the Wauconda Fire Protection District should be allowed to annex property within the village. That would result in a $269 per year increase to the owner of a $200,000 home. Village officials say that would be offset by a $110 drop in utility taxes.

Millburn District 24, is asking for a 73-cent property tax rate increase to address a budget deficit. The owner of a $300,000 would pay an additional $732. District officials have cut spending by $1.3 million. Cuts will be needed if the referendum passes but not as extensive as if it fails.

Voters in Gurnee District 56 are asked whether the district should issue $28.5 million in bonds mostly to build a new grade school in Wadsworth.

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