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updated: 12/6/2012 5:05 PM

DuPage Republicans, Democrats to face off in township races

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Encouraged by their party's successes during the presidential election, DuPage Democrats are taking aim at the Republican stranglehold on the county's nine township governments.

The various GOP and Democratic township organizations this week chose their candidates for township supervisor, trustee, highway commissioner, clerk and assessor. On April 9, voters will pick who they want to lead the townships that administer general assistance programs, maintain roads and assess the value of properties.

The most contested township races are in Bloomingdale, Downers Grove and Naperville townships, where Democrats are challenging Republican candidates for every position except assessor.

"A race is always good," said John Dabrowski, chairman of the Bloomingdale Township Republican Party. "It keeps everybody energized and on their toes."

Historically, the GOP has dominated township government in DuPage. Every township supervisor, clerk, trustee, assessor and highway commissioner is a Republican.

The last Democrat to hold a township office in DuPage is former York Township Supervisor Mark Starkovich. He lost his re-election bid in 1993.

However, Dianne McGuire, chairman of the Naperville Township Democratic Organization, points to last month's election victories by Democrats, including congressional candidate Bill Foster and state Sen. Linda Holmes, as a sign of things to come.

"We are committed to the idea that what voters here and all over the country are looking for is effective and efficient bipartisan government," McGuire wrote in an email. "We are committed to making that happen in Naperville Township."

Nevertheless, Addison Township GOP Chairman Patrick Durante is predicting Republicans will be victorious in township races throughout DuPage. He said the local GOP organizations will outwork their Democratic counterparts.

"They (Democratic leaders) flex their muscles because Obama carried it (DuPage) and because Tammy Duckworth won," Durante said. "But they shouldn't take credit for that. The candidates won those races -- not the Democratic Party of DuPage County."

When it comes to fielding quality township candidates, Downers Grove Township GOP Chairman Brian Krajewski says Republicans have the edge.

"They (Democrats) just keep running the same group of people for different positions," Krajewski said. "I think they drew cards to figure out which spots they're running for this time."

Democrats dismiss such remarks, saying they feel confident about their candidates.

"Republicans have had 35-plus years building their township structure," said Bob Peickert, DuPage Democratic Party chairman. "We're only in our fifth year of real growth. Our concern is to continue to make progress."

But unless independents enter the races, most Republicans will face no opposition in Milton, Wayne and Winfield townships. The Democrats only have one candidate in Milton Township and one candidate in Winfield Township.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have no assessor candidates for any of the townships.

The lack of Democratic opponents in his township surprises Clifford Brown, chairman of the Winfield Township Republican Central Committee.

"I thought they would be emboldened to run a full slate of candidates," said Brown, who is seeking re-election as the township clerk.

Peickert said that each township organization made its own decision about which township offices to pursue.

"Our township organizations are better prepared for these elections than in the past," Peickert said. "It's all a matter of turning out the votes."

With the township government's low profile and numerous detractors -- many think it no longer serves a need outside of sparsely populated rural areas -- voter turnout is expected to be low in April.

Durante says that's unfortunate because townships are "the government closest to the people," adding they do things that other forms of governments can't.

"A township can accomplish more with its dollar than the county or the state," Durante said. "They ought to give more responsibility to the townships instead of trying to take it away."

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