Parra not backing down in Lake County Board race
Democrat Delfino "Del" Parra has twice run for the Lake County Board's 15th District seat.
Both times, he faced veteran Republican incumbent Carol Calabresa.
Both times, he lost.
But that hasn't deterred Parra, a 64-year-old Libertyville resident, from running for the board again.
And once more, this November, he'll face Calabresa, 67, who also lives in Libertyville and has served on the board since 1986.
Despite losing to Calabresa by 28 percentage points in 2010 and by 26 points in 2006, Parra is sure he'll be victorious Nov. 6.
"I was hoping to face her," Parra said. "I'm confident I'm going to win this time."
Calabresa didn't want to talk about her odds against Parra this year.
"You never know what's going to happen to you when you put your name on the ballot," she said. "You can't take anything for granted."
The 15th District includes Libertyville and part of Mundelein. The boundaries were adjusted this year because of population changes recorded by the U.S. Census and the board's decision to reduce its size from 23 to 21 members.
The county board doubles as the Lake County Forest Preserve District board.
Calabresa defeated fellow Libertyville Republican Dan Donahue for the GOP nomination last week. It was a rare primary battle for Calabresa; she hadn't been challenged by another Republican since 1998.
Calabresa said she was "ecstatic" about the primary win, but isn't about to rest.
"I've been a candidate long enough to know the well-read and well-informed voters of Libertyville expect a lot from their elected officials," she said. "And I want to continue to meet their expectations."
For Calabresa, that means continuing to support conservative spending practices and protecting open space.
Part of the pro-environment bloc of Republicans that seized control of the board in the 1990s, she long has been known as one of the panel's greenest members and has served as the forest board's president and vice president.
When asked what she learned from her recent primary win — and the fact that 43 percent of Republican voters wanted someone else to be nominated — Calabresa's answer was succinct.
"I need to work harder," she said.
Lake County Republican Party Chairman Bob Cook expects Calabresa to win in November.
"She works hard, and there's a reason she's been there as long as she has," said Cook, of Wauconda. "I think she's really got the pulse of her community. She understands what's important to the people of Libertyville and that general area."
But Cook wasn't about to guarantee a third victory.
"Unless you have no opponent in the election, you always have to work hard and assume you're behind in the polls," Cook said. "Because there's always (a chance for) an upset."
Parra is the director of Diamond Lake Elementary District 76's family resource center, which coordinates services and support for families in the Mundelein-area district.
Parra ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. He sees the results of the GOP primary as an opportunity.
"Forty-three percent of her based decided it was time for a change," he said. "And I agree with that 43 percent."
Asked why he's running a third time, Parra said he would "bring fresh ideas" to the panel. That includes, he said, taking steps to reduce residents' property taxes and accomplishing some of the proposals the board has been talking about for years.
Chief on his list is the county-owned Winchester House nursing home, a Libertyville facility he believes should be bigger because of the aging, sizable baby boomer population.
County officials long have sought to build a smaller Winchester House that focuses on patients with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Smaller is key, they've said, because the growth of the private assistant-living business and other factors have reduced the demand for beds at Winchester House.
Parra is not discouraged by his two prior losses to Calabresa.
"I'm ready," he said.
Nancy Shepherdson, the first vice chairwoman of the Lake County Democratic Party, called Parra "one of the most passionate candidates that we have."
"He really feels that he could make a contribution to the board," said Shepherdson, of Deer Park.
Asked if party leaders approached anyone else to run for the 15th District seat because of Parra's 0-2 record, Shepherdson said they "talked to a lot of people about running in a lot of districts."
"Whether he's the best candidate for this district, I don't know," Shepherdson said. "But he is the candidate, and we'll support him."
Calabresa said she doesn't plan to change her approach to campaigning.
"It involves a lot of shoe leather and knocking on doors," she said.
Connecting with constituents in that very personal way "makes you realize what an honor and privilege it is to be one of 21 board members," Calabresa said.
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