Democrats make inroads, and maybe history, in Lake County

 
 
Updated 11/7/2018 4:32 PM
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  • The still undecided race between GOP incumbent Chuck Bartels, left, and Democrat Jessica Vealitzek, could decide which party holds control of the Lake County Board for the next two years. It's believed that Democrats haven't controlled the board since at least 1839, if ever.

    The still undecided race between GOP incumbent Chuck Bartels, left, and Democrat Jessica Vealitzek, could decide which party holds control of the Lake County Board for the next two years. It's believed that Democrats haven't controlled the board since at least 1839, if ever.

Lake County Republicans had reason for feeling blue Wednesday, a day after the incumbent GOP treasurer and clerk were upended and longtime Republican Sheriff Mark Curran narrowly fended off Democratic challenger John Idleburg by less than 1 percentage point out of 239,856 votes cast.

Democratic victories for county board seats also have brought the party to the precipice of a historic situation, as no one can remember when -- or if -- the Lake County Board was ever controlled by Democrats.

Aside from individual candidates' messages, the Democrats' success appears to be a combination of several factors: trickle-down from higher-level races where the party succeeded, crossover voters, state party support, voters' disenchantment with the status quo, and Republican board candidates being lumped in as part of a "corrupt" system because of an ethics probe involving former board Chairman Aaron Lawlor.

"There were people who said, 'This is the first time I voted for a Democrat in my life,'" said Holly Kim, a former Mundelein village trustee who defeated incumbent Treasurer David Stolman. "Everyone has a different reason."

Of the 14 Lake County Board seats up for election, Democrats took eight and may have picked up four seats. Lawlor's former seat is among those four.

The former chairman dropped out of the race in his Vernon Hills-area 18th District after taking an indefinite leave of absence to deal with an unspecified drug addiction. Illinois State Police also are investigating Lawlor's use of a county-issued credit card to make personal purchases.

Talk among Democrats on Wednesday was that it would be the first time the party took control of the board since Lake County split from McHenry County in 1839. The Republican Party wasn't founded until 1854.

At the moment, the 21-member Lake County Board has 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans, with the race for District 10 in the Mundelein area too close to call. Incumbent Republican Chuck Bartels is trailing challenger Jessica Vealitzek by 16 votes out of 15,126 cast.

Bartels said there are about 600 provisional or late-arriving mail ballots still to be counted. He does not consider the race over.

"I'm not ready to concede," Bartels said Wednesday. "There's no reason to do so."

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