Hot races to watch in the Fox Valley
While the top of the election ticket is getting the most attention, there are still plenty of local races to talk about in Kane and McHenry counties.
They range from contentious and high-profile statehouse races to Kane and McHenry County Board contests where several incumbents are at risk of getting bounced out of office.
The suburbs remain Illinois' battleground for power in the state legislature, as Chicago remains dominated by Democratic lawmakers and downstate trends Republican.
But even if the Democrat-controlled General Assembly does not change hands, the outcome of races across the suburbs will determine the margins by which the controlling party has majorities. That could be a big factor as lawmakers are expected to consider matters like extending the 2011 income tax hike, pension reform and other key issues in the next two years.
52nd House: Republican David McSweeney and independent Dee Beaubien may be on the ballot, but it's Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan who's between their ugly and expensive battle for the seat.
Madigan has backed Beaubien by paying for TV ads and mailers that attack McSweeney's "extreme" positions on social issues.
Beaubien, 70, supports gay marriage and abortion rights while McSweeney opposes gay marriage and supports abortion only in cases of rape, incest and when the mother's life is at risk. McSweeney, 47, has tried to align Beaubien, the widow of longtime Republican state Rep. Mark Beaubien, with Madigan and themes of big spending and higher taxes. Both candidates hail from Barrington Hills. The 52nd House includes portions of Algonquin, Barrington, Barrington Hills, Cary, Crystal Lake, Fox River Grove, Island Lake, Lake in the Hills, North Barrington, Oakwood Hills, South Barrington, Trout Valley and Wauconda.
22nd Senate: Democratic incumbent Michael Noland of Elgin hopes to fight off a challenge from Republican challenger Cary Collins of Hoffman Estates. Both are campaigning on the idea that they're independents who will fight for what's best for their constituents. Noland has held the office for five years, and Collins previously served on the Hoffman Estates village board. The district includes parts of Elgin, Carpentersville, East Dundee, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg, South Elgin and Streamwood.
Meanwhile, every Kane County and McHenry County Board seat is up, due to redistricting, and there are several high-stakes races to watch.
Kane County: Democrat Sue Klinkhamer and Republican Chris Lauzen are vying for the chairman position, and both have very different plans for how they'd like to transform the way county government operates.
Klinkhamer wants to hire a county administrator to run the county's day-to-day operations. That, she said, would eliminate many of the political games that have fueled expensive lawsuits in recent years. Lauzen believes hiring an administrator would only add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy between elected officials and their constituents.
Voters on Tuesday also will elect Kane County's first new coroner in 12 years. Chuck West, who held the office since 2000, died on July 4 after complications from a liver transplant and was not seeking another term.
Rob Russell, a sergeant with the DuPage County sheriff's department, is running as a Republican against Tao Martinez, who owns a North Aurora firm that decontaminates and eliminates biohazardous waste from death scenes. Both have said trust and integrity need to be restored to the office, but they clash over qualifications and whether the coroner's office should investigate deaths at nursing homes, a move Martinez supports.
When it comes to the Kane County Board, Republican Mike Kenyon, a South Elgin dairy farmer, finds himself locked in a battle to retain his seat in the 16th District. Kenyon, 68, has been in office for eight years and has never had any competition -- until now.
Democrat Jennifer Barconi, a 39-year-old sales director from South Elgin, says Kenyon is out of touch with the economy and that she won't authorize raises for county employees. Kenyon, former chairman of the Kane County Republican Party, would approve raises to avoid employee turnover. He accuses Barconi of being big on sound bites, but short on substance.
Republican Jeffrey Meyer, 30, an Elgin attorney, is challenging Democrat Deborah Allan, 63, for the 17th District seat she's held for 10 years. Both want to increase transparency on the board but have different ideas on how to achieve it. Meyer wants to move meetings to the nighttime hours, while Allan advocates televising committee meetings.
In the 18th District, Republican incumbent Drew Frasz, 56, who has one of the highest attendance rates among his peers, faces Democrat Kerri Branson, 42, a challenger who hasn't attended a single county meeting. Frasz hopes to streamline county government, approve raises for county employees and support a new computer system for the judicial system. Branson, a North Aurora resident, left a modeling career to look after her twin sons who have cerebral palsy. If elected, she pledges to help special needs people and seniors.
McHenry County: The hottest race for seats on the McHenry County Board is in District 2, where longtime chairman Ken Koehler faces five opponents -- three fellow Republicans and two Democrats -- vying for four seats altogether.
Koehler, 64, from Crystal Lake, has served on the board since 2000, and as chairman since 2004. Some county board members have said it's time for a new chairman, as has state Rep. Jack Franks.
Also running are incumbent James Heisler, 71, a Crystal Lake Republican who has been on the county board since 1992; James Kennedy, 57, a Democrat from Lake in the Hills who works as a police sergeant in Elk Grove Village; incumbent Donna Kurtz, 53, a Crystal Lake Republican who was elected in 2010; challenger Jim Roden, 67, a Democrat from Crystal Lake who owns a picture frame shop, and challenger Carolyn Schofield, 40, a Republican from Crystal Lake who serves on the Crystal Lake city council.
Ballot issues: As for referendum issues, Kane County voters will be asked to decide whether the U.S. Constitution should be amended to limit corporate, special interest and private money in political activity. The amendment aims to overturn a Supreme Court decision that opened elections to unlimited spending.
In McHenry County, voters will get to weigh in on a referendum that could alter how county government is run. If voters opt for a county executive form of government, they will then have a chance to elect a county executive in 2014. The county executive would run day-to-day operations of the county, hire and fire staff members and have the power to veto decisions by the county board.
•Daily Herald staff writers Elena Ferrarin, James Fuller, Tara García Mathewson, Harry Hitzeman, Kimberly Pohl and State Government Writer Mike Riopell contributed to this report.