Lake County Board District 13 candidates spar over bipartisanship
Republican challenger Lauren Fleming, who is seeking to take Democrat Board President Sandy Hart's seat on the Lake County Board, criticized the current board for not being bipartisan, citing the high number of Democrats serving on board committees.
Fleming noted during a virtual candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters Thursday night that Democratic board members have a five seat to two advantage over Republican board members on most county board committees. On committees with nine members, Democrats have a 6-3 advantage.
"I think should invite all viewpoints to the table with transparency and honesty and I think that it's important to remember that leadership sets tone for bipartisanship," said Fleming, a Gurnee Republican.
Board members picked Hart as chair in December 2018 after voters sent enough Democrats to the board to give the party a 12-9 majority, ending decades of Republican Party dominance. Just one Republican board member, Steve Carlson of District 7, crossed the aisle and supported Hart in the vote for board president.
Hart acknowledged Friday that Democrats have more representatives on every board committee, but said Fleming didn't mention that when Republicans were in charge, they maintained the same structure, albeit with Republicans holding the 5-2 advantage.
"It was very important to me to follow the structure and committee breakdown that had existed," Hart said Friday. "I felt if the previous board felt that was a fair structure in the prior years, they would feel it was a fair structure in future years."
Fleming encouraged people to watch archived meetings and see the "vitriol and division" among board members. Fleming said the county board is lacking in bipartisanship and listening to each other.
Hart said she has debated respectfully during board meetings and urged residents to make their own decision about what is happening on the county board.
"The vast majority of items we pass are passed unanimously," said Hart, a Lake Bluff Democrat. "I think we already have been working in a bipartisan way. When people had elected the chair in the past, that was pretty much done on a unanimous basis until I became chair."
The policy of video recording committee meetings happened during Hart's tenure as board president. Hart listed it among her accomplishments in making the board more transparent. To watch Lake County Board videos, visit lakecountyil.gov/2829/County-Board-Meetings.
Fleming said if elected she would make reaching across the aisle a priority.
"The first thing I will do is reach out to every county official, Republican and Democrat, to rebuild our sense of unity because we deserve some courage and some consensus," Fleming said. "I think this will restore our community pride and again make us a force for good."