Facing tax evasion charge, state Sen. Link to step down as Democratic leader in Lake County

Facing a federal tax evasion charge, state Sen. Terry Link has announced he will resign as leader of the Lake County Democratic Party effective Sept. 15.

Link, of Indian Creek, revealed his plans Thursday morning in an email to Lake County Democratic leaders in which he wrote "there is a lot more to the story" regarding the tax charge and his resignation. He didn't elaborate.

Some prominent Democrats - including Lauren Beth Gash, the first vice chair of the party in Lake County and in line to succeed Link - aren't pleased with Link's timetable, as it coincides with the final months of campaigns for the Nov. 3 election.

"We are working hard to elect Democrats who share our values in the fall. We don't want distractions," said Gash, of Highland Park. "We are communicating with Terry about an earlier resignation or a special meeting to accomplish that."

Link has served as the local Democratic chairman since 1992. He has represented the 30th Senate District, which includes much of central and eastern Lake County and a small portion of Cook County, since 1997.

In his email to party leaders, which was shared with the Daily Herald Thursday, Link said he has been contemplating resigning as party chairman "for quite a while."

"While some of you might assume my resignation is related to what you may have read in the news, those who truly know me and know my character and loyalty to the Democratic Party know there has to be more to the story," he wrote. "I can assure you that there is a lot more to the story. Unfortunately, at this time I am unable to comment on any of this."

During Link's tenure, the balance of political power in the once staunchly Republican county slowly shifted to the Democrats, so much so that today Democrats hold nearly every legislative position and most of the countywide posts, and they have majority control of the county board. Most Lake County voters supported the Democratic candidate in the last three presidential elections, too.

Link rose to be an assistant majority leader in the Senate. But his political career is in decline now.

Last week, he was charged with tax evasion in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Federal prosecutors say Link falsified his income on his return for 2016. Link reported his total income that year was $264,450 even though he knew his income "substantially exceeded that amount," according to the charging document.

The tax charge comes months after media reports identified Link as the unnamed senator who cooperated with the FBI and wore a wire to trap then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo of Chicago in a federal bribery case. Arroyo has pleaded not guilty.

Federal documents indicate the person who cooperated falsified income tax returns and helped the FBI in order to get leniency. Link repeatedly has denied he was the FBI source.

Link hasn't responded to interview requests.

Under party rules, the chair goes to the first vice chair if there's a vacancy. Gash, a Democratic activist and former state representative, was elected first vice chair earlier this year.

Link has given no sign he'll relinquish his Senate seat. But he has stepped down as chairman of the Senate pensions committee and as a member of the General Assembly's legislative ethics commission.

The timing of Link's departure from party leadership matters if he also resigns from the Senate.

If Link gives up the Senate seat before Sept. 11, state law says the post will go up for election on the Nov. 3 ballot. If he resigns after Sept. 11, it'd be up to party leaders in Lake and Cook counties to choose a successor in a weighted vote that heavily favors Lake County because of the 30th District's borders.

Thus, if he resigns from the Senate after Sept. 11 but before he resigns as county Democratic chairman, he could essentially choose his own successor.

Democratic state Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake, Democratic state Rep. Daniel Didech of Buffalo Grove, Republican state Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills and Republican state Sen. Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods are among the lawmakers who've called for Link to resign from the Senate.

• Daily Herald staff writer Doug T. Graham contributed to this report.

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