'We have a lot of healing to do': Incumbents hanging on in contentious Barrington 220 race

In a contentious race that hit upon many of the culture war issues being debated across the country and drew the attention of national conservative groups and the state Democratic party, it was the candidate preaching unity who claimed the most votes Tuesday.

With provisional and late-arriving mail ballots left to be counted, Diana L. Clopton was the top vote-getter in the race for three seats on the Barrington Area Community Unit District 220 board, according to unofficial results.

Clopton received 4,100 votes, and incumbents Barry Altshuler and Leah Collister-Lazzari were in second and third, with 4,085 and 4,057 votes, respectively.

Just behind are three candidates who ran as a slate: Katey Baldassano, with 3,935 votes; Matt Sheriff, with 3,728 votes; and Leonard Munson, with 3,628 votes.

Nelda Munoz sits seventh, with 950 votes.

Clopton said her campaign was about reflecting all of the community members' voices and not just the loudest.

"Sometimes the loudest aren't necessarily reflective of everyone," she said.

The race renewed heated debates in District 220 over COVID-19 mitigations and the placement of the controversial memoir "Gender Queer" on the shelves of the Barrington High School library.

The slate of Baldassano, Munson and Sheriff received support from the conservative 1776 Project PAC, which touts its opposition to critical race theory and anti-racism, and an endorsement from the national organization Moms for Liberty.

On the other side, the Democratic Party of Illinois - boosted by a $500,000 donation from Gov. J.B. Pritzker - supported Altshuler and Collister-Lazzari while accusing Baldassano, Munson and Sheriff of "pursuing an extremist agenda."

Baldassano said Wednesday it was unfortunate that the campaign became swept up in the culture wars. She said she would have preferred the focus stay on students and their learning.

She also expressed surprise over the results, given the amount of community support the slate received, including a gathering of backers Monday night in downtown Barrington.

"I can't imagine candidates doing more than we did to put ourselves out there, get our message out there," she said.

Collister-Lazzari said that if the results stand, she is looking forward to her next term.

"We're going to keep doing the good work that we have been doing to help keep academic excellence in Barrington 220," she said.

With some votes left to be counted, Altshuler said he is cautiously optimistic.

"I think it confirms that we're split," he said of the results. "Even the fourth-place candidate was not that far behind the third-place candidate. I am heartened to see that the community did support the more progressive candidates."

"We have a lot of healing to do," Altshuler added. "I really want to reach out to the other school board members and the community and see what we can do to come together now. We have to agree that it's about the kids and it's about their education and it's about community values and figure out how we can come together."

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