Lake County Board candidates decry discord but disagree on cause

 
 
Updated 10/3/2018 4:36 PM
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  • Republican incumbent Ann Maine, left, and Democrat Susan Malter, right, are candidates for the Lake County Board's 21st District seat.

    Republican incumbent Ann Maine, left, and Democrat Susan Malter, right, are candidates for the Lake County Board's 21st District seat.

Both candidates for the 21st District seat on the Lake County Board say they've noticed increased discord among the panel's members -- but they disagree about its roots.

Republican incumbent Ann Maine believes the partisanship that has marred politics at higher levels is "contaminating" the board.

Democratic challenger Susan Malter said the hostility she's seen doesn't follow party labels. She instead faulted board leaders, nearly all of whom are Republican, for having "a lack of decorum."

Malter and Maine will face off for the 21st District seat Nov. 6. The winner also will serve on the Lake County Forest Preserve District board.

The candidates talked about board issues in Daily Herald questionnaires and follow-up interviews.

The Republican Party always has held a majority on the county board. The panel now has 14 Republicans and 7 Democrats.

Historically, relatively few board votes have been cast purely along party lines. But some observers have noted the board's Republican leaders have faced more opposition from Democrats lately.

For example, some Democrats in July opposed a measure asking Gov. Bruce Rauner to issue an amendatory veto to stop a bill that could've changed how the county's chief assessment officer is hired. The bill was being pushed by Lake County Democrats, and Rauner vetoed it.

Conversely, some Republicans this summer publicly criticized a Democratic commissioner for speaking to the media about an issue even though Republicans had been interviewed as well.

Maine -- a county commissioner since 2002 and the forest board's president since 2010 -- said she was disappointed by the partisan fighting she's seen.

Republican board chairmen traditionally have appointed Democrats to committee leadership posts, Maine noted, but only two of the board's 10 committees are led by Democrats today.

"It is a real loss for Lake County that the partisanship seen at the state and national level is contaminating our local board and interfering with our ability to serve our residents," said Maine, of Lincolnshire.

Using public policy to fulfill political agendas decreases confidence in the board, Maine said.

Malter, an attorney from Lake Forest, said she doesn't see the squabbling as a partisan problem.

"I hear something else," Malter said. "There is a defensiveness and hostility to questions and challenges from anywhere."

Although some issues have divided the board, the splits don't always pit Republicans against Democrats, Malter said. For example, Republicans Judy Martini and Jeff Werfel voted with three Democrats to oppose asking Rauner to veto the assessor bill.

"Challenges to the way that county government is being run may be perceived as partisan because the majority has directed the government for all this time," Malter said.

The 21st District includes Riverwoods, Lincolnshire, Bannockburn, Mettawa and Green Oaks, as well as portions of Deerfield, Lake Forest, Waukegan, Gurnee and Grayslake.

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