Kevin Burns' campaign bus tour through Kane County ended in Geneva Tuesday night with defeat at the hands of Chris Lauzen, his Republican rival.
Lauzen easily garnered the GOP nomination for Kane County Board chairman, concluding a bitter race while setting up a contest against an unlikely opponent as Sue Klinkhamer.
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Unofficial vote totals saw Lauzen with 25,963 votes compared to 11,424 votes for Burns with all precincts reporting.
Burns' campaign had a hard time maintaining momentum in the final two months as two major glitches undercut the Geneva mayor's efforts.
The first came with the unexpected endorsement of Lauzen by Congressman Randy Hultgren. Burns' campaign had released a photo of Hultgren knocking on doors with Burns to the media just days before the Lauzen endorsement came out. The news release indicated the campaign expected Hultgren to at least remain neutral in the contest if not support Burns. The second glitch came when Lauzen's campaign uncovered a series of emails traded among Burns and his campaign supporters using his taxpayer-funded city email account. While Burns attributed the use of the account to a technical glitch, the crass content of some of the emails might have turned off some potential supporters.
"There are never cake walks," Lauzen said. "I think that people want grass-roots reform and the priorities of freezing the property tax levy, ending the cronyism and just delivering honest, competent administration. The idea of somehow you have to be the mayor of a nice community in order to be county board chairman, I think that was dispelled tonight in a very convincing way."
Burns was not available for reaction following the apparent loss. But campaign spokesman Bill Page said they knew the campaign would be an uphill battle against Lauzen because of his name recognition and relatively large campaign war chest. The Hultgren endorsement fumble and bad press from the emails didn't help either, Page said.
"There were some distractions, to be truthful," Page said. "It's just like a basketball player. When something becomes a distraction, you don't get your shot back. It was hard getting our message out, and it was a rough night. You don't get into something to lose, that's for sure. But we can't say it's a horrible, bitter disappointment. We did our best."
The Democratic side of the contest was much quieter with Klinkhamer running a self-described non-campaign. Klinkhamer spent no money on the race, didn't put up any signs and even left town for the month of February. But voters spoke loudly in her favor on election night.
Unofficial totals saw Klinkhamer receive 5,567 votes compared to 4,255 for Bill Sarto with all precincts reporting.
All along, Klinkhamer said she couldn't lose no matter what the result on election night would be as long as she could stay away from the dirty side of politics in the race. Klinkhamer, a former St. Charles mayor, achieved that and more.
"I think the lesson is if you run a campaign and don't say anything then nobody can use anything against you," Klinkhamer said. "This just confirms what I think people appreciate in a campaign. It's not the dirty stuff. And signs don't vote."
The result left Sarto dumbfounded.
"I don't really have an explanation for this," he said. "If you lose an election, generally there's something you can go back and point to. But I just don't see a reason for losing. She ran as a Democrat on the Democratic ticket. So I will give her the benefit of the doubt and say she is a Democrat and wish her the best."