Robert Peickert overcame criticism from fellow Democrats and a lawsuit to secure his fourth 2-year term as chairman of the DuPage Democratic Party.
The Elmhurst resident Wednesday night defeated Bill Habel of Naperville during the party's convention at the Wheaton Community Center. Nearly 200 precinct committeemen, each with a weighted vote, re-elected Peickert by a vote of 3,334-2,104.
"We face many (political) challenges here in DuPage," Peickert told the crowd before the vote. "Working side by side, we can handle the challenges that come our way if we are willing to give and take in equal measure."
He said DuPage Democrats will have opportunities during November's general election if "we have our eyes open to them."
Meanwhile, DuPage Republican Party Chairman Darlene Ruscitti secured her second 2-year term. Unlike Peickert, she ran unopposed.
"It is my honor to once again have the strong support of my fellow Republican precinct committeemen for this upcoming general election," Ruscitti said. "As DuPage GOP chairman, I will do everything I can to lead our party to victory from the top of the ticket to the bottom."
Ruscitti, who is the DuPage regional superintendent of schools, made history in 2012 when she became the first female leader of the DuPage GOP.
Peickert first won the seat in 2008 after he led a group called Operation: Turn DuPage Blue that helped to push the party's agenda and promote candidates. He said the party has made progress in getting more Democrats elected since he became chairman.
"We moved the party to a new level," he said.
Despite that success, Peickert said he was "pretty certain" someone would run against him.
Initially, state Sen. Tom Cullerton was expected to be the opponent. But Cullerton, of Villa Park, couldn't run because of an amendment of the DuPage County Democratic Central Committee's bylaws that requires elected officers of the organization to have served as a Democratic precinct committeeman for at least two of the last three terms.
Cullerton was just elected last month as a precinct committeeman. And while there was a lawsuit challenging the legality of the amendment, a DuPage judge dismissed the case.
Habel, a business representative for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 701, announced that he was challenging Peickert on the same day it was revealed Cullerton wasn't going to run.
"Right now, I believe the priorities of the Democratic Party of DuPage, especially the way it handles its finances, are wrong," said Habel, adding the organization should be giving more of its money to candidates.
Peickert appeared to get the message. He said he's going propose a bylaw change that would give township party leaders more of a say about what goes into the budget.
Chairs: Cullerton could not run against Peickert