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updated: 5/5/2011 6:24 AM

Partisan politics takes over Kane Co. redistricting

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Political party affiliation took center stage Wednesday night for the first time in Kane County's redistricting process.

The county's redistricting task force hoped to complete their work and send a 24-seat map to the full county board for a final vote next Tuesday. Late political changes to a handful of districts derailed that plan. Republicans and Democrats will battle over the future political balance on the board with a concentration on the north and south parts of the county.

In the north, new changes would pit county board members Deb Allan and Jeanette Mihalec against each other. The previous version of the map had Mihalec facing Cathy Hurlbut in an re-election contest. All three members represent Elgin. Hurlbut is a Republican. Allan and Mihalec are Democrats.

In the previous setup, Hurlbut, who chairs the redistricting task force, said she felt her role on the task force forced her to fall on her own sword if cutting board seats meant creating political contests between current board members.

"If you meant to fall on your sword, you missed," Allan said. "Instead, Jeanette and I will fall on our swords."

Hurlbut has said publicly she believes she can win an election against Mihalec. However, on Wednesday, she said she won't fight the Republican plan.

"I think I have to agree with the party on this one," Hurlbut said. "The party has said we don't want to risk losing two seats."

Kane County Republican Party Chairman Mike Kenyon said after the meeting the old version of the 24-seat map could have created a county board with a 12-12 split of Republican seats and Democratic seats.

"I don't think that's a realistic representation of the county," Kenyon said.

The current setup on the board is 15 Republicans, 10 Democrats and one independent.

Democrats, of course, disagree with Kenyon's vision, particularly as it relates to the other battleground seat, which is on the south end of the county.

The new version of the 24-seat map adds two precincts that traditionally vote Republican into the district represented by Bonnie Kunkel, a Democrat. Those two precincts are enough to give Republicans a shot at winning that seat back.

Board Member Jesse Vazquez said no one publicly complained about the version of the map that kept those precincts out of Kunkel's district, so it should be left alone.

"County Board District 4 becomes more Republican now than Democrat, and I have an issue with that," Vazquez said.

Hurlbut told Vazquez to broker a compromise for the task force's next meeting. That meeting will be Monday. County Board members all said they hope to have an opinion from the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund by then as well. The county has long believed that the only possible legal challenge to the new map they'll create would come from the organization, which advocates for Hispanics to have a fair chance at electing candidates of their choosing.

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