The races to watch Tuesday in Kane, McHenry counties

  • Democrat Tao Martinez, left, and Republican Rob Russell are candidates for Kane County coroner.

    Democrat Tao Martinez, left, and Republican Rob Russell are candidates for Kane County coroner.

  • Democrat Jack Franks, left, and Republican Michael Walkup are candidates for McHenry County Board chairman.

    Democrat Jack Franks, left, and Republican Michael Walkup are candidates for McHenry County Board chairman.

  • Democrat Ray Flavin, left, and Republican Patrick Kenneally are candidates for McHenry County state's attorney.

    Democrat Ray Flavin, left, and Republican Patrick Kenneally are candidates for McHenry County state's attorney.

  • Democrat Valerie Burd and Republican Keith Wheeler are candidates for the 50th District House seat.

    Democrat Valerie Burd and Republican Keith Wheeler are candidates for the 50th District House seat.

  • Democrat Cristina Castro, left, and Republican Tracy Smodilla are candidates for the 22nd State Senate District.

    Democrat Cristina Castro, left, and Republican Tracy Smodilla are candidates for the 22nd State Senate District.

  • Republican Jim Oberweis and Democrat Corinne Pierog are candidates for 25th state Senate District.

    Republican Jim Oberweis and Democrat Corinne Pierog are candidates for 25th state Senate District.

 
 
Posted11/7/2016 5:30 AM

The presidential race might be atop the minds for some voters who go to the polls Tuesday, but several local contests are expected to be heated as well.

Here's a look at some of the races to watch Tuesday in Kane and McHenry counties:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Kane County coroner

The coroner's race is a rematch of the 2012 election between Rob Russell and Tao Martinez.

Four years ago, Republican Russell won the vacant coroner's seat with 54 percent of the vote over Martinez, a Democrat from North Aurora.

Russell's office has since completed a national accreditation, and he's feuded with Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen over budget overruns.

Russell, 49, of South Elgin, emphasizes his experience in law enforcement and as coroner as reasons for another four years, along with restoring trust and his office's role in being a public health advocate.

Martinez, 35, has gained experience since the last election, serving four years as a deputy coroner in Kendall County. He says if he's elected, his office will live within in its means. There's no excuse for Russell to be over budget, he says.

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Martinez also pledges to create a 24-hour shift, instead of an on-call policy, to reduce staffing costs.

Martinez says he would work with the county board toward a new facility and seek donations from the private sector.

McHenry County chairman

For the first time, voters will elect the chairman of the McHenry County Board.

Republican Michael Walkup, of Crystal Lake, has held a county board seat for one term. He faces Democrat Jack Franks, of Marengo, a state representative who dropped a re-election bid for his 10th term in the 63rd District to run for chairman.

Walkup, also running for re-election as a District 3 board member, wants to work collaboratively with the county board and chip away at the tax levy. Franks wants to cut the county's tax levy by 10 percent and is calling for a restructuring of the county government, which he claims is corrupt.

Both call themselves fiscally conservative reformers. They both want to lower taxes and downsize the county board.

McHenry Co. state's attorney

Voters will elect a new state's attorney, as incumbent Lou Bianchi is not seeking another term.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Patrick Kenneally, who has worked for nine years as an assistant state's attorney and is Bianchi's first assistant, is running as a Republican.

Kenneally says his experience in all divisions of the state's attorney's office has prepared him for the job, and he touts the office's willingness to go to jury trials if necessary.

Ray Flavin a defense attorney from Woodstock, says he can transition to the county's top prosecutor because, in the end, the ultimate goal is justice. Flavin says crime is down and the office is overstaffed; he wants to eliminate six attorney positions in the criminal division and pass savings to taxpayers.

22nd Senate District

Republican Tracy Smodilla, a small-business owner and Bartlett economic development commission member, and Democrat Cristina Castro, a Kane County Board member, want to represent the 22nd state Senate District.

Castro said legislators need to look at cutting corporate tax loopholes before considering raising taxes.

She wouldn't tax pensions and advocated revisiting a 2013 bill that tied cost-of-living pension increases to benefits and salary bumps.

Smodilla supports the state's flat income tax. The state should encourage job growth by reforming its workers' compensation program, whose costs hinder small businesses, she said. Taxing pensions would be OK but only above a "minimum threshold," Smodilla said. She also opposes cost-of-living increases for pensions.

25th Senate District

In District 25, Corinne Pierog of St. Charles is making her third attempt to become a state senator. It's her second election battle against Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove. Oberweis, a Republican, was elected in 2012.

Pierog serves on the St. Charles school board. She paints herself as a moderate, fiscally conservative Democrat. She opposes converting state pensions to defined contribution plans or enacting a property tax freeze.

Oberweis supports Gov. Bruce Rauner's "turnaround agenda," including a property tax freeze, revision of workers' compensation laws, the redistricting initiative, term limits, lawsuit reform and moving away from defined benefit pensions. Oberweis said if elected it will be his last term.

50th House District

In the 50th, incumbent Republican Keith Wheeler of Oswego faces Democrat Valerie Burd of Yorkville. Burd is the former mayor of Yorkville. Wheeler was elected to the state House in 2014.

Burd favors spending more money on infrastructure projects, because that will provide jobs. She also favors increasing income tax with some relief for middle-income payers and would like to see the state constitution amended to allow a graduated income tax that would charge higher rates to higher earners.

Wheeler wants workers' compensation laws changed to lower the cost of the insurance to businesses. He opposes any tax increases, including a sales tax on services.

Fox River Valley Library

The library district is asking voters for a property tax increase of 21 cents per $100 of taxable value. The tax hike would be used to fund a roughly $24 million project to build a new 40,000-square-foot library in West Dundee and to renovate the library in East Dundee.

If approved, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay approximately $70 more in property taxes each year. The district would collect an additional $3.2 million in annual property tax revenue -- double what it collects currently -- to cover construction, staffing and future operation costs.

• Daily Herald staff writers Harry Hitzeman, Susan Sarkauskas and Elena Ferrarin contributed to this report.

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