'Ugly politics': Congressional candidate alleges retribution by suburban rival

A Republican running for Illinois' 6th Congressional District seat is taking aim at a rival candidate who's also the mayor of their hometown, saying an effort to remove him from two village posts "smells of rotten, ugly politics."

But Orland Park officials say Scott Kaspar should be booted from the police pension fund board and a village ethics committee because he's made statements on social media and released a campaign ad about crime in Orland Park that were untrue and disparaged the police department.

"This is not the kind of person that the citizens of Orland Park want on these types of boards," Trustee Brian Riordan said during a committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday night.

It's the latest verbal volley between Kaspar and Mayor Keith Pekau, who's also running for the 6th District seat.

Trustees on Monday voted to recommend Pekau remove Kaspar from the panels. Kaspar's terms with both groups had been set to expire in June.

On Tuesday, Kaspar revealed he resigned from the pension fund board the night before in an email to the group's chairman. He wouldn't provide a copy of the email.

In an email to Village Manager George Koczwara, Orland Park Trustee Cynthia Nelson Katsenes said Kaspar should be removed from both groups because he "publicly attacked and disparaged" the village and police department.

Last month, the Kaspar for Congress campaign released a short video claiming crime is "out of control" in Orland Park. The commercial has aired on social media and can be found on YouTube.

In contrast, data released by the Orland Park Police Department shows crimes involving people or property in town are at a 27-year low.

Both Pekau and former Police Chief Joseph Mitchell have blasted Kaspar for making incorrect statements about crime.

Kaspar said he doesn't believe the department's statistics but conceded he has no data to back up his claim.

"I do not, no," he said Tuesday. "I have stories."

Afterward, Kaspar issued a news release that cited departmental data and said auto thefts were higher in 2021 than in 2014. It also said Orland Park police made more weapons-related arrests in 2021 than 2019.

During Monday's committee meeting, Trustee Sean Kampas said suggesting Orland Park police are lying about crime statistics is "pathetic."

In a statement on social media, Kaspar accused Pekau of "weaponizing and abusing his position as Mayor to target political opponents." The statement incorrectly indicates Pekau and the board voted to remove him from the pension fund board.

Pekau actually announced he would abstain from voting on the matter and didn't vote. Additionally, the vote taken wasn't to remove Kaspar from the groups but to recommend his removal.

Trustees voted 6-0 in favor of that recommendation. A formal vote is possible at the next board meeting on April 18.

Pekau said he'll follow whatever recommendation trustees make. He also suggested the board invite Kaspar to the meeting to explain himself and answer questions.

Kaspar said he won't attend the meeting.

Kaspar questioned the timing of the board's action. He said he texted Pekau two weeks ago to say he didn't want to serve in either post after June.

But a copy of a March 23 text from Kaspar supplied by the Pekau campaign tells a different story.

In that message, Kaspar said he would "continue to serve ... deliberately and with all seriousness" if Pekau extends his appointments. He also said he'd respect Pekau's decision if he appoints others to the posts.

"This should not be political," Kaspar texted.

Pekau and Kaspar are among six candidates seeking the Republican nomination in the 6th District. The others are Rob Cruz of Oak Lawn, Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso, Glen Ellyn resident Niki Conforti and Catherine A. O'Shea of Oak Lawn.

Three candidates are running for the Democratic nomination: incumbent U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove, current 3rd District U.S. Rep. Marie Newman of La Grange and Charles M. Hughes of Chicago.

The newly redrawn 6th District includes much of the West and Southwest suburbs in Cook and DuPage counties.

The primary election is June 28. The general election is Nov. 8.

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Keith Pekau
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