In face of more negative ads, Elk Grove mayor announces reelection bid
Prompted in large part by a new round of negative campaign-style mailers that take aim at him and his political allies, Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson announced this week he is running for reelection next spring.
Already the longest-tenured mayor in village history, with nearly two dozen years in office, Johnson plans to seek an unprecedented seventh term in the April 6 election.
"It seems like it's gone by in a flash. But I'll tell you this: When this crap started hitting again, it made my decision very simple," Johnson said Tuesday night from the village board dais, holding up an anonymous glossy mail piece that arrived in mailboxes late last month. "This village is too important. This village has too much going for it to allow this kind of stuff to continue on."
Johnson and his allies were targeted in a series of anonymous mailers and robocalls from the summer of 2019 until last February, when the Illinois Supreme Court tossed from the ballot a referendum that sought to impose retroactive term limits on him and other village leaders.
Two new mailers and two billboards popped up in recent weeks. The most recent mail piece takes aim at Johnson and his political consultant, Kitty Vanderweel Weiner, who chaired the Committee to Oppose the Retroactive Term Limits Referendum that was bankrolled by Johnson.
Weiner and her husband run Entertainment Management Group, which books Elk Grove's summer concert series and purchases insurance brokered through Johnson's private insurance company.
Johnson said the criticisms in the ads are "nothing new."
"They're just regurgitating the stuff they talked about before," he said. "They are trying to divide this community."
He believes the ads are a sign there will be challengers to him and the slate of three incumbent trustees who also announced reelection bids. After Johnson's reelection announcement during the village board meeting Tuesday night, similar proclamations were made by Trustees Pat Feichter (on the board since 1996), Chris Prochno (since 1997) and Jeff Franke (since 2007).
"I was 50/50 (about running again)," Franke said. "But a few weeks ago when that flyer hit everybody's doors, it just infuriated me that these outside people that don't care about this town are trying to take it over and change things not for the better, but just for their own purposes -- maybe making more money or something. They don't care."
Johnson said he also running again because of the economic effects related to the coronavirus pandemic. He pointed to his and the current board's experience in navigating economic downturns after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the 2008 recession.
And he touted other parts of his record, including low taxes, infrastructure projects, burgeoning business park and the popular summer concert series.
"Now it's more important than ever before, at least in the 65-year history of this village, that we have strong experienced leadership to get through this time," Johnson said.