Elgin councilman-elect spent $24,000 in race, way more than others
One candidate in the Elgin City Council election far outspent the others, including in the mayor's race, and got large contributions from Democratic politicians, campaign filings show.
Baldemar Lopez, elected April 2 to a two-year seat, spent $24,340 from January through March, including $20,004 in mailings and consulting work from a company in Palos Heights, and more for staff salaries, campaign palm cards and other items, state board of election records show. Monday was the filing deadline for the 2019 first quarterly report.
The other candidates didn't list any politicians as major donors giving more than $1,000. One candidate, Steve Thoren, hadn't filed documents yet.
Lopez got 2,699 votes in the race against Thoren, who placed second with 299 fewer votes, and Jerri McCue, who placed third, according to unofficial election results.
McCue spent $2,769 in the first quarter, documents show.
Thoren's campaign manager George Rawlinson said he plans to file Wednesday. Rawlinson estimated Thoren's campaign spent between $8,000 and $9,000 in the first quarter. Thoren didn't get any major donations from politicians, he said.
Lopez, an immigration attorney, said his win wasn't just about the money, but the money did help him overcome lack of name recognition. "Running campaigns is incredibly expensive. You have to hire staff, you have to buy campaign signs ... it's a combination of things," he said. "More importantly, (my win) was a testament to the volunteers and the effort that I put into the campaign."
Thoren is a past Elgin Township trustee, serves on the city's heritage commission and is a local radio talk-show host. McCue serves on the planning and zoning commission, is a former board member for the Downtown Neighborhood Association and ran for city council in 2013.
In the mayor's race, Mayor David Kaptain won re-election against challenger Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger. Records show that Kaptain spent $8,853 and Rauschenberger spent $6,022 in the first quarter.
Kaptain agreed campaigns are getting more expensive, but $24,000 "is a lot of money for a two-year seat," he said.
Lopez's contributions include $5,000 from the political action committee of Chicago's 36th Ward, whose alderman is Democrat Gilbert Villegas; $2,000 from the campaign committee for state Sen. Cristina Castro, a Democrat from Elgin; and $2,000 from the campaign committee for Linda Chapa LaVia, a former Democratic state representative from Aurora recently picked by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to head the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs.
"I heard (Lopez) had funding from a lot of people that were established in the Democratic Party," Kaptain said. "One of the concerns is that this has turned into a political (thing) and become partisan -- and that is not good. It's a nonpartisan election."
Lopez denied it's about politics, saying all three Democratic donors are friends of his. He and Villegas worked together in former Gov. Pat Quinn's administration, and he's known Castro and Chapa LaVia for years, he said. Lopez also got $2,500 from the Chicago-based Latino Leadership Council.
In Elgin, four city council incumbents also won re-election April 2. Councilman John Steffen, the top-vote getter, spent $8,444 in the first quarter, followed by Tish Powell, who spent $7,082, Rose Martinez, who spent $3,670, and Toby Shaw, who spent $2,699, records show.
The incumbents ran against Fred Moulton, who spent $3,410 in the first quarter, and Dustin Good and Anthony Ortiz, who had no campaign filings, records show. Ortiz and Good said it's because their campaign contributions were below the filing threshold required by the state board of elections.