Palatine District 15 voters oust incumbents in referendum backlash
Voters in Palatine Township Elementary District 15 sent an opposition school board slate into office in what appears to be a sharp repudiation of incumbents who agreed to a historic 10-year teacher contract last year and voted to put a controversial school referendum on the ballot last fall.
With all 76 precincts reporting, all five members of Engage D15 held leads of 1,200 votes or more in the unofficial tally. They will become a strong majority on the seven-member board.
Michael Smolka had 6,223 votes, Lisa Beth Szczupaj 5,679 votes, Frank J. Annerino 5,367 votes and Anthony Wang 5,366 votes in the race for four 4-year terms.
That gave them big leads over all other challengers.
Incumbents trailed far behind with Gerald Chapman tallying 4,048 votes, Board President Peggy Babcock 3,765 votes and James Ekeberg 3,296 votes.
Independent challengers Adam Bauske and Sid Aman rounded out the field with 3,670 and 2,929 votes respectively.
Voters also backed the slate candidate in the race for a sole 2-year term. Slate member Barbara A. Kain had 5,910 votes to easily outdistance independent David Border, who served on the committee that recommended the referendum, who had 4,102 votes,
The election marked the second time in six months Palatine voters sent the message they are not satisfied with the status quo.
Engage D15 candidates said communications between the community and school board had been frayed by the unprecedented 10-year teacher contract and the unpopular $130 new school referendum question that voters overwhelmingly rejected in November.
The slate was supported by the Palatine Republican Township Organization, which drew the ire of other candidates who warned the party involvement set a dangerous precedent.
In February, Ekeberg said PTRO's support was an example of partisan politics entering a nonpartisan election. Aaron Del Mar, Palatine Township Republican committeeman, demurred and said Ekeberg had been supported by the local Palatine Democrat organization in the past. Matt Flamm, the Palatine Township Democratic Committeeman, said the Greater Palatine Area Democrats have made a point to never endorse in school board races.