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updated: 10/29/2012 4:20 PM

DuPage Democratic group withholds some endorsements

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When the Democratic Women of DuPage County announced their candidate endorsements for the Nov. 6 election, something was conspicuously missing: support for the majority of Democrats running for the DuPage County Board.

While the group endorsed Elizabeth Chaplin in District 2, Tony Michelassi in District 5 and District 6 candidates Lauren Nowak and Dirk Enger, it didn't speak in favor of six other board hopefuls.

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District 1 Democrats Rita Gonzalez, Maria DeAngelis-Vesey and Thomas Castillo didn't get the nod; neither did Sharon Bryant in District 3 nor District 4 candidates Charles Ditchman and Dan Bailey.

President Julia Beckman said her group chose not to endorse the six members of its own party because none of them returned questionnaires that help group members make informed decisions.

Beckman concedes the questionnaires were longer than in previous years, but said candidates had at least two weeks to fill them out. The questionnaires were sent in mid-July.

"I'm not sure if they ran out of time, or maybe it was in the middle of a crunch for them," she said. "In sympathy with the candidates, they have many questionnaires to fill out. But we can't reach out and endorse someone who we don't know very well."

Comparatively, candidates for the other countywide governing body -- the DuPage County Forest Preserve Commission -- fared a bit better.

Only two Democrats, Michael Braun in District 1 and Don Kirchenberg in District 2, failed to get support from the Democratic women because they didn't return their questionnaires on time.

The group wound up endorsing Steven Leopoldo in District 3, Robert Flesvig in District 4, Dennis Clark in District 5 and Shannon Burns in District 6.

Chaplin agreed the organization's questionnaire was tough and asked very involved questions. She also said she received it "just in the nick of time," but made sure to complete it along with every other questionnaire candidates have been given by various organizations.

"Part of being an elected official is responding to people who are asking questions," Chaplin said. "If we're not responding in a timely manner when we're running for office, what is likely to happen when we're elected?"

Some who weren't endorsed, like Kirchenberg, said they bear no ill will. He said he filed late for his candidacy and didn't get on the ballot until July, which put him behind on all other tasks.

In addition, he said he agrees with Beckman, saying candidates must file an overwhelming amount of questionnaires for civic groups and media.

"They are good organizations that have the best intentions and work hard to support candidates for good government," he said. "But like anything else, you have to improve the processes as you move along."

The Democratic Women of DuPage County aims to emphasize women's issues and endorse candidates who "share its concern for issues which impact the lives of women, in particular, and the well-being of the public, in general," according to its website.

The group, which has about 50 members and roughly 300 on its email list, also tries to hold quarterly public events on civic issues to publicize events for Democratic candidates, and recently launched a Toastmasters group to help candidates brush up on their speaking skills.

"We really try to be very proactive and very supportive of candidates, particularly women," Beckman said. "We can't give financial support at this point, because we're a young organization but we do what we can as a group and are really looking to the future, to prepare candidates."

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