Sue Klinkhamer didn't even want her picture taken on election night. Now she's the star of November's countywide ballot for Kane County Democrats.
Klinkhamer won the Democratic nomination for Kane County Board chairman while doing what many thought was impossible. She didn't knock on doors. She didn't sent out mailers. No robo calls. No signs. She didn't raise or spend a dime on her self-professed "non-campaign." She even vacationed in Florida for the entire month of February in the middle of the campaign.
Then she won a spot on general election ballots that others spent thousands of dollars trying to get on.
The question now is can she follow that same path to victory over the Republican nominee, Chris Lauzen, for a seat that Democrats haven't represented in a century.
"I'll worry about that in a few days," Klinkhamer said after her victory. "My campaign will be different moving forward, but I hope not in a bad way. ... Nasty fliers, robo calls, it just goes back to the money thing. People are tired of politicians winning races that way."
If Klinkhamer does decide to spend more than the $35 in her campaign fund for the general election, she'll likely need the help of the Democratic Party. If that help is to come, Klinkhamer will have to be the one to reach out.
"She's not even on our contacts list," said David Reece, chairman of the Dundee Township Democrats. Reece recruited Klinkhamer's opponent, Bill Sarto, to run as chairman when the party had problems finding someone to run for the office. Initially, Reece wanted Sarto to run for county auditor. Klinkhamer entered the fray after Sarto announced his candidacy. And Reece publicly declared Klinkhamer a Republican Party mole after tracking down Klinkhamer's recent Republican voting history.
Now Klinkhamer is the party's only hope in the chairman's race.
"I'm just kind of shocked," Reece said. "But the people have spoken. It is what it is. My issue with her is, as part of the Democratic leadership in this county, we want to support a candidate who really wants to go out there and try to win. But I guess that philosophy has really gone out the window now."
Reece said he still believes Klinkhamer is really a Plan B for anti-Lauzen elements of the Republican Party who found they couldn't back Kevin Burns as the campaign progressed. He supports the theory that a lot of Republicans who would have voted for Burns crossed over to vote for Klinkhamer on Tuesday night.
But Reece said he's willing to change his mind and work for Klinkhamer's general election run if she can change his mind.
"If Sue Klinkhamer would've come to us directly instead of coming in the back door by being ushered in by Bill Foster, all this could've been avoided," Reece said. "If she was really a Democrat, which I highly doubt she is, and she wants to be part of the Democratic Caucus and get out there and work hard as a Democrat, then yes, I will help her."
Kane County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Guethle said Klinkhamer has many qualities that make her an attractive Democratic candidate.
"She was mayor in a large city in the middle of the county (St. Charles)," Guethle said. "She has name ID. She has countywide support as we saw last night. And women candidates seem to fair well for the Democrats, in particular women who have held elected office. I met her a few times. She's pleasant."
Klinkhamer said she thinks the theory that she snagged a lot of Republican crossover votes Tuesday night is probably correct. But she also thinks that's exactly what Democrats need in a candidate to win in November.
"There was probably even more crossover than I thought there would be," she said. "This is an experiment. I worked hard in government for 25 years. Campaigns have incredible highs and incredible lows. This has been the most calming campaign I've ever been involved with."