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posted: 3/18/2012 4:28 PM

Voters have many choices in Lake County

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  • Chris Kennedy

    Chris Kennedy

  • Bryan Winter

    Bryan Winter

  • Karen Williams

    Karen Williams

  • Mike Nerheim

    Mike Nerheim

  • Reginald Mathews

    Reginald Mathews

  • Louise Hayes

    Louise Hayes


Tuesday's primary ballot in Lake County features the usual array of candidates taking their shot at various state and county positions.

However, some races feature a bit more political drama.

The races for Lake County State's Attorney, state Senate District 31, and Lake County Board District 17 have drawn considerable interest because the incumbents are not running for re-election. Six of 23 Lake County Board incumbents are not in the primary race.

Long-term incumbents in Lake County Board District 15 in the Libertyville area and District 21 north and east of Lincolnshire have primary opponents for the first time in years.

And some incumbent appointees are having to defend their turf. State Rep. Kent Gaffney, appointed last summer to succeed the late Mark Beaubien in the 52nd House District, which covers parts of Lake, Cook and McHenry counties, is challenged by Barrington Hills financial consultant David McSweeney and Tea Party candidate Danielle Rowe, an Island Lake marketing executive, in what has become a nasty campaign.

All in all, the races have provided an earful of platforms and positions for voters, who will choose the party winners. Countywide offices include recorder of deeds, coroner, circuit court clerk and county board/forest preserve district positions.

Following is a summary of some of the races of note or interest on Tuesday's ballot.

Lake County State's Attorney: The race features the first contest for that office since 1968 in which an incumbent is not on the ballot. Michael Waller is retiring after 22 years in office, and six candidates have entered the race to replace him.

The contest features three candidates from both parties. Each party has one candidate who is a current assistant in Waller's office, a former assistant who has gone into private practice and one with no experience prosecuting felony cases.

The majority of the candidates propose some form of review process for major cases, in part as a reaction to criticism of the office's handling of high-profile cases such as Juan Rivera and Jerry Hobbs.

Democrats include Christopher Kennedy of Libertyville, an attorney in private practice who was a prosecutor from 1994 until 1998. Reginald Mathews of Lindenhurst is an assistant state's attorney prosecuting felony cases and was a county probation officer prior to becoming an attorney. Karen Williams is a Mundelein attorney with a background in private industry prior to her obtaining a law degree.

Among the Republicans, Louise Hayes of Lake Bluff is an assistant state's attorney assigned to the felony review division. Michael Nerheim of Gurnee was an assistant prosecutor in Waller's office from 1999 until 2007 when he went into private practice in Waukegan. Bryan Winter of Lake Barrington has been in private practice in Lake County for 26 years and has prosecuted municipal ordinance violations and DUI cases as a local prosecutor.

State Senate District 31: Four Republicans are competing in what became a contested race after incumbent Suzi Schmidt of Lake Villa cited domestic problems in not seeking re-election.

On the ballot are Linwood "Lennie" Jarratt of Round Lake Beach, Joe Neal of Wadsworth, Michael White of Lindenhurst and Lawrence "Larry" Leafblad in Grayslake.

Melinda Bush of Grayslake, who's unopposed in the Democratic primary, will face the Republican winner in November. The district covers most of northern and parts of central Lake County

Among the issues, Leafblad and Neal have provided similar ideas about wanting a pension plan with options for public employees in an effort to save taxpayers' money. Jarratt said a way to fix the struggling system would be to have a maximum annual pension payout of $75,000 for a 40-year public employee.

White has said the state constitution may have to be changed and pensions removed from it.

All four GOP candidates oppose an idea for local school districts to assume responsibility for teachers pensions.

On the issue of civil unions continuing in Illinois, White, Neal and Leafblad said they are in favor. Jarratt said he opposes civil unions because they are a "slippery slope" toward same-sex marriage.

Jarratt owns a website design and consulting business, Neal is a civil and transportation engineer, Leafblad is an independent senior consultant for Ambit Energy and White is a branding and marketing consultant.

Leafblad is a former Lake County Board member. Jarratt is founder of the Lake County Tea Party. Neal, Jarratt and White have never held an elected post.

Lake County Board/Forest Preserve District: The District 15 Republican race pits Carol Calabresa, who has served since 1986, against Dan Donahue, a member of Libertyville's plan commission and zoning board of appeals. Both are Libertyville residents.

Calabresa has cited fiscal responsibility as her top priority, while Donahue said his main issue is amending the agreement between the village and county officials regarding the master plan for the county's government campus on Winchester Road.

Calabresa hasn't lost since being elected 26 years ago and touts her experience, historical perspective and relationships with representatives of other governments as strengths. Donahue says voters are tired of incumbents who stay in office too long and lose touch.

In District 17 in the southwestern part of the county, longtime Republican board member Stevenson Mountsier is retiring after 15 years. His exit has drawn interest from three hopefuls, who each have different levels of government experience.

Nick Sauer of Lake Barrington is a member of the Barrington Unit District 220 school board and a partner in a business that distributes kitchen cabinets. He listed job creation and economic improvement through pro-growth policies as his top issue. Dan Quick served as village administrator and police chief in his hometown of Wauconda. Finances top his list for the county board. Wauconda Township Trustee Mary Schorr, also of Wauconda, says her No. 1 issue is reviewing the county budget line by line.

Daily Herald staff writers Tony Gordon and Bob Susnjara contributed to this report.

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