Fewer candidates, more diversity on Elgin ballot

 
 
Updated 11/29/2016 4:06 PM
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  • Seven candidates filed to run for Elgin City Council, the fewest number since at least 2007.

      Seven candidates filed to run for Elgin City Council, the fewest number since at least 2007. John Starks | Staff Photographer

Elgin's April election ballot will feature the fewest number of candidates for city council in at least 10 years but more diversity than usual.

Seven candidates filed to run April 4, compared to 11 people in 2015, 23 in 2013 -- when two seats were added due to a population increase -- 10 people each in 2011 and 2009, and 11 people in 2007.

All four incumbents are white -- Rich Dunne, John Prigge, Carol Rauschenberger and Terry Gavin -- while challengers Brenda Rodgers and Corey Dixon are black, and Brandon Yaniz is Hispanic.

Karin Jones, co-chairman of the nonpartisan Elgin Civics Club, said she believes the low number of candidates is a reflection of voter disenchantment after a bitter presidential election. "I think that just wore everybody out, whether you were happy or sad with the outcome."

Diversity on the ballot "is always a good thing," Jones said. "I wish it was more (minorities who filed to run), but I'm glad that it was three at least," she said. "I think that's very representative of the community."

The city council includes seven whites, one black woman and one Latina. Elgin's estimated 112,000 residents are 44 percent Hispanic and 7 percent black.

Jaime Garcia, executive director of Centro de Informacion, said local Hispanic leaders have talked about how to elicit more participation from Latinos.

To even consider running, people have to know how the process works and what steps to take, and many Latinos who fit the bill are busy running their own businesses or serving in other capacities, such as on nonprofit boards, he said.

Dixon said he'd like to see more Hispanics run for office to mirror the community's demographics, although all council members must serve the entire community.

Yaniz, whose father is Cuban, said ideas are more important than race or cultural background when making choices at election time. Still, he said, a ward system would spur more diversity among candidates.

"That would have to force people to find a representative (for their ward), and that would better represent Elgin as a whole."

As for the low number of candidates, Rodgers said a lot of people are disenchanted with politics, while others don't even know local elections take place in April.

Councilwoman Rose Martinez, the Hispanic on the city council, said she believes few people are running because residents are overall happy with the quality of life in Elgin.

Still, the presidential election likely was a factor, she said. "I think people are just so disgusted at how elections are."

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