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updated: 4/3/2011 5:34 PM

Hot races abundant in Northwest suburbs

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Months of debate, campaigning and -- let's face it -- mudslinging will come to a head Tuesday, when suburban voters go to the polls to decide dozens of municipal, park district, library and school board races.

Here's a final look at several of the more hotly contested races, some with potentially far-reaching implications.

One of the most crowded fields is in Barrington Hills, where seven candidates are vying for three 4-year board seats.

On one side is the Common Sense Party, made up of Diane "Dede" Wamberg, Steve D'Amore and incumbent Beth Mallen. Together they opposed the village's controversial outdoor lighting ordinance, which ultimately passed in a less restrictive form.

The party also believes compromise may be in order on Barrington Hills' 5-acre minimum zoning for properties on the outskirts of town in order to avoid losing more tracts of land through deannexation.

Incumbent Joe Messer, Village Clerk Karen Selman and Patty Meroni -- running together as the Save 5 Acres Party -- remain committed to the zoning requirement, saying open space, quality of life and property values will be at risk with anything less.

Save 5 Acres candidates are wrapped up in an ethics complaint that won't be settled until after the election. The slate admitted it violated new campaign finance laws by not properly reporting the identity of a resident who donated $5,000 to each of their campaigns.

Plan Commission Chairman David Stieper also is running as an independent.

In the 12,000-student Palatine Township Elementary District 15, it's the incumbents vs. the newcomers in a hard-fought race for three 4-year board seats.

The challenger slate of Scott Herr, Gerard Iannuzzelli and Manjula Sriram say board members Gerald Chapman and James Ekeberg put the district on a path toward deficit spending and draining reserves by approving a teachers contract they believe too generous and unsustainable.

The newcomers also have accused the incumbents for being out of touch with the community, citing voters' overwhelming rejection of a $27 million bond issue last year.

The incumbents -- running along with recently appointed board member Dave Seiffert -- say many factors outside of their control have contributed to the budget gap, and contend they have the necessary experience and institutional knowledge to improve the financial outlook while putting the students' interests first.

Another key school board race is in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, where the winners will make tough financial calls and possibly cuts as the district works to reduce a deficit.

Incumbents George Brandt and Richard Gerber face challenges from former member Charles Fritz as well as newcomers Mucia Burke, Roman Golash, M. Bryan Neal and Bill Robertson.

In nearby Elgin Area School District U-46, which serves 41,000 students in communities including Bartlett, Streamwood and Hanover Park, incumbents Maria Bidelman and Amy Kerber are being challenged by Gary Percy, Mary Van Slyck, Traci O'Neal Ellis and Jennifer Shroder for three 4-year seats.

The winners will face the daunting task of negotiating six labor contracts while dealing with a $40 million operating deficit.

Among the mayoral contests, Schaumburg is being closely watched as 24-year incumbent Mayor Al Larson faces his first challenge in 16 years. Opponent Brian Costin has been an outspoken critic of the village property tax enacted in 2009 and what he considers poor investment decisions by Schaumburg leaders.

Another hot contest comes in Prospect Heights, where Mayor Dolores "Dolly" Vole faces a second consecutive challenge from Nicholas Helmer and a write-in campaign from Kurt Giehler.

Vole disputes her opponents' claims that there's money in the budget to rehire some of the police officers laid off due to budget cuts last year. She'd first like to see the police station reopen to the public.

The winner must deal with the results of two city referendums, which ask taxpayers to authorize $5.5 million in bonds to fund the police pension as well as to increase the local sales tax.

Both Prospect Heights Elementary District 23 and the Indian Trails Library District have come under fire from a group of assessors who say proposed tax increases on Tuesday's ballot, if approved, will be higher than the wording on the ballot states.

Assessors say the referendums ignore the multiplier, or property tax equalizer, while the law firm used by District 23 and Indian Trails defends the language, saying they followed the law.

Polls open at 6 a.m. Tuesday.

• For a compilation of candidate profiles and questionnaires and issue stories, go to dailyherald.com/news/politics/election. You'll also find a recap of the Daily Herald's editorial board endorsements online and on Tuesday's editorial page.