With removal imminent, Link resigns as Lake County Democratic Party chair

Accused of tax evasion, state senator was likely to be removed from his post Monday

State Sen. Terry Link announced Saturday that he is resigning effective immediately as the chairman of the Lake County Democratic Party after being at the helm since 1992.

Facing a federal tax evasion charge, Link emailed the announcement after stating last week that he'd be stepping down Sept. 15. But more than a dozen leading county Democrats had called on him to resign sooner, and party officials had called a meeting for Monday, where they planned to vote to remove him.

By resigning immediately, Link loses any say he might have had as party chair in naming his successor if he resigns his Senate seat. So far he has given no sign he will give up that post.

"I take great pride in the 29 years I have served as chairman," Link, of Indian Creek, wrote in the email. "During these years I worked diligently to turn a red county blue."

As the first vice chair of the party in Lake County, Lauren Beth Gash - a Democratic activist and former state representative from Highland Park - automatically replaces Link.

"I'm happy to work toward keeping Lake County blue," Gash said. "We've worked very hard for many years to turn Republican seats into Democratic seats, to elect people who share our values. I served several years in Springfield as the only Democrat from Lake County in the House or the Senate, and have worked since then to turn seat by seat by seat blue. We've been very successful and we will continue to do so."

Representing the 30th Senate District, an area that includes much of central and eastern Lake County and a small portion of Cook County, since 1997, Link rose to be an assistant majority leader in the Senate. During his time as Lake County chairman the region slowly shifted from Republican to Democratic control.

Link, however, was charged two weeks ago with tax evasion in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Federal prosecutors say Link falsified his income on his 2016 return.

"Sen. Link has made the right decision," said state Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake. "This is such an important year and it matters that the Lake County Democratic Party has minimal distraction and leadership it can trust."

The tax charge came months after Link was identified in media reports as the unnamed senator who cooperated with the FBI in a federal bribery case against then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo of Chicago, who pleaded not guilty. Link has denied being the FBI source despite federal documents indicating that the person who cooperated sought leniency from the FBI for falsifying tax returns.

"While I would have liked to see a different ending to Sen. Link's story, given the charges against him he made the right decision to step down immediately," said U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, who represents the 10th Congressional District.

Link hasn't responded to interview requests.

"I believe the Lake County Democratic Party is definitely in a better position than it was when I took over," Link said in his email. "I have been a proud Democrat all of my adult life, and will continue to be a proud Democrat until I take my last breath."

Daily Herald staff writer Russell Lissau contributed to this report.

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