Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez spent most of the past two years battling the county board for more money. In the end, he always came out with just the right amount of cash he needed. The question on Tuesday was if, after battling Republican challenger Don Kramer on several touchy subjects during multiple debates, could Perez come out of election night with just the right number of votes he needed.
The answer was yes. In doing so, Perez survived a wave of Republican victories across the country, as well as profound backlash against incumbents.
Unofficial vote totals showed Perez beating Kramer by more than 2,424 votes, finishing with 62,879 votes compared to Kramer's tally of 60,455 votes.
Perez and Kramer battled over several touchy subjects during the campaign. Red-light cameras, solving overcrowding at the new jail and even the law enforcement careers of both men sparked some heated moments over the past several months. Perez seemed to stand on the opposite side of public opinion in his support for the cameras. Kramer seemed to stand opposed to the county board's view of how many sworn officers the county can afford to have right now.
With many voters coming out to vote either for or against a Republican Congressional takeover, the sheriff's race seemed to hinge on voter turnout in Aurora and Elgin, typically strongholds of support for Perez. As expected, Kramer beat Perez in the Kane County portion of the district, but not by a wide enough margin to overcome a Perez landslide in Aurora. Perez won Aurora by a better than 2-to-1 margin.
Perez said he's proud of the showing he had outside of Aurora, but plans to spend his new term in office reaching out to more of the district.
"I just have to continue to do my job to the best of my ability," Perez said. "I may not have won outside of Aurora, but I made it real close. And the reality is I still serve those 50,000 people as sheriff first thing tomorrow morning."
Perez said he thought the clincher for the race came not on the campaign trail, but in the county board chambers. Perez had been locked in a budget battle with the board for the past two fiscal years. He even agreed to allow an outside financial consultant come in an review his books.
"I welcomed it because I knew, in the end, I was going to be vindicated," Perez said. "This has been a one of the most difficult of economic times since the Great Depression, but the lesson learned is you get a lot more done if you negotiate in good faith than you do if you're fighting all the time. I knew the numbers I was working with. I knew what I was doing compared to the previous sheriff's baseline."
In the end, the county board agreed to give Perez more of the funds he'd sought for years. Perez said that last bit of public and monetary support from the county board probably gave him an extra positive push in the minds of voters as well.
Kramer could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday night.