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updated: 11/25/2013 7:42 PM

DuPage County Board hopeful beats the crowd

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  • DuPage County Board hopeful Paula McGowen of Glen Ellyn, center, arrived at 5:15 a.m. Monday to be the first person in line to file for the March 18 primary election. A self-described "early bird," she arrived 45 minutes before the doors opened at 6 a.m. even though she couldn't file until 8 a.m.

      DuPage County Board hopeful Paula McGowen of Glen Ellyn, center, arrived at 5:15 a.m. Monday to be the first person in line to file for the March 18 primary election. A self-described "early bird," she arrived 45 minutes before the doors opened at 6 a.m. even though she couldn't file until 8 a.m.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • Video: First day of filing


Paula McGowen is an early riser who's eager to challenge an incumbent DuPage County Board member in the Republican primary.

So while she didn't have to be at the county election commission until 8 a.m. Monday to file for the March 18 election, McGowen showed up around 5:15 a.m.

"I just get up very early," said McGowen, who will challenge District 4 county board member Grant Eckhoff.

When the election commission finally opened its doors, the Glen Ellyn resident was at the front of a line of about 25 countywide, county board, forest preserve and precinct committee candidates who filed their paperwork first thing Monday morning.

While the filing period doesn't end until Dec. 2, it's already clear there will be at least two contested Republican primary races in DuPage.

Forest preserve commissioners Mary Lou Wehrli of Naperville and Joe Cantore of Oak Brook both filed to run for the district's presidency in the GOP primary to replace retiring D. "Dewey" Pierotti Jr..

"It's a wonderful opportunity for the district to have fresh leadership after 20 years with the current president," Wehrli said. "I'm a big believer in term limits. So I think there should be someone new at the helm."

Then there's the county board race between Eckhoff and McGowen. Like his GOP opponent, Eckhoff submitted his paperwork at 8 a.m. Monday.

In what was the surprise of the day, former Republican Moon Khan filed to run as a Democrat for the District 4 county board seat.

"It's not a typo," the Lombard resident said Monday. "I switched parties three or four months ago."

Looking to expand beyond their traditional base, DuPage Republicans in 2005 recruited Khan to run for York Township trustee. He served in that elected position for about seven years. He also served as a Republican precinct committeeman for roughly a decade.

He didn't go into details about why he changed political parties. "A lot of things happened," Khan said.

Meanwhile, countywide seats up for grabs include the positions of county clerk, county board chairman, treasurer, sheriff and regional superintendent of schools.

On Monday, Sheriff John Zaruba, county board Chairman Dan Cronin, county Treasurer Gwen Henry and county clerk candidate Paul Hinds filed their paperwork. All are Republicans.

Zaruba, who has been sheriff since 1997, needed to collect roughly 1,500 signatures to get his name on the March ballot. He turned in about 7,000.

He said he's seeking re-election because he loves his job. "I believe I'm very good at it and I'd like to continue on," Zaruba said.

Cronin, who submitted his nominating petitions after the initial rush of filings, said he's seeking a second term to continue efforts to reform and consolidate local government.

"We've started something here that, I think, is significant -- reducing the size, scope and cost of local government," Cronin said. "I'm honored to carry on this big challenge. We've had some success. We've got a lot more work to do."

Three of the forest preserve commission's six members -- Shannon Burns, Linda Painter and Marsha Murphy -- are up for election. Painter and Murphy both filed on Monday.

"Right now, it's a really exciting time for the district," Painter said. "We're going to have a new president. We're going to have a new executive director. Maybe we'll have some new commissioners."

If Burns -- the lone Democrat on the board -- runs, she already is guaranteed a GOP challenger during the general election in November 2014.

Republican Al Murphy, who was defeated by Burns by less than 600 votes in November 2012, wants another opportunity.

"I don't think enough people got my message," said Murphy of West Chicago. "There are things that we can do in the forest preserve to make it a better, more accessible environment for the average user."

County board member Lauren Nowak, a Democrat, also will have to defeat a familiar Republican opponent during the general election in order to keep her 6th district seat.

Republican Kevin Wiley, who lost his bid to become a county board member when Nowak won election in November 2012, is making another attempt.

Wiley said he likes his chances this time around.

"She (Nowak) is a good, tough campaigner," Wiley said. "But when it comes to the substantive duties of her job, I will have that in spades. So I am pretty comfortable about that."

In addition to Eckhoff, other county board incumbents who filed on Monday were Paul Fichtner, Peter DiCianni, John Curran and Tonia Khouri.

As for neighboring Will County, incumbent County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots and Sheriff Paul Kaupas both filed petitions on Monday. At least one Republican will face Kaupas in the primary and three Democrats are running as well.

In addition, both seats in Will County Board District 11, which includes Naperville, are up for election. Those seats are held by Naperville Republicans Charles "Chuck" Maher and Suzanne Hart. Maher and Hart both filed on Monday. Republican Michael "Big Mike" Strick of Naperville is seeking to defeat one of the incumbents.

Candidates seeking the same seat who filed simultaneously on Monday morning -- or between 4 to 5 p.m. on Dec. 2 -- will be included in a lottery to determine ballot position. DuPage County plans to have its lottery on Dec. 9. Will County has scheduled its lottery for Dec. 10.

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