Democrat leader on Link's resignation: 'This is not the timing I would have chosen'
Now that the responsibility of choosing former state Sen. Terry Link's replacement largely falls on her shoulders, the leader of Lake County's Democratic Party said she would have preferred Link resign earlier so voters could have made the decision.
"This is not the timing I would have chosen," Democratic Chair Lauren Beth Gash said. "I would rather be spending my time focusing on electing our Democratic candidates."
Facing a federal income tax evasion charge, Link announced his resignation from the 30th District seat late Friday, effective the next morning. The lawmaker from Indian Creek had served since 1997 and had two years left on his term.
The resignation's effective date was one day after a state-prescribed deadline for letting voters choose his successor in a special election Nov. 3 -- the same date as the general election.
Instead of Democratic and Republican candidates facing off for the post, Gash will team with Wheeling Township Democratic committeeman and state Rep. Mark Walker to select a senator by Oct. 12.
The vote will be weighted heavily in Gash's favor because most of the district is in Lake County. A small portion is in Cook County.
The process rankles Lake County Republican Party Chair Mark Shaw, who in a lengthy, critical statement accused Gash of helping to orchestrate Link's resignation.
"While the rest of the nation was honoring the victims and heroes of 9/11, Terry Link and Lauren Beth Gash presumably were plotting with their fellow Democrats to abuse Illinois state election law loopholes and deny Lake County voters the right to choose our next state senator," Shaw said in the release.
Friday was the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Shaw also demanded Gash resign.
Gash described Shaw's comments as "baseless, wacky and unhinged," specifically calling the 9/11 reference offensive, untrue and a "desperate attempt to score cheap political points."
Link was charged with tax evasion last month. Prosecutors say he falsified his income on his return for 2016.
Link hasn't responded to repeated interview requests,
Last year, media reports identified Link as the unnamed senator who cooperated with the FBI and wore a wire to trap then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo of Chicago in a federal bribery case. Arroyo has pleaded not guilty.
Federal documents indicate the person who cooperated falsified tax returns and helped the FBI to get leniency. Link publicly denied he was the FBI source.
Gash insisted Link's resignation surprised her. She said she found out when a reporter texted her Friday afternoon.
"(I had) no idea it was coming," said Gash, who became party chair in August when Link quit that post.
Democratic Party leaders wanted Link to withdraw from the Senate earlier in the summer, Gash said, but Link wouldn't oblige.
The prospect of pitting a Democratic candidate against a Republican for the post in the historically blue 30th District didn't scare Gash, particularly because of the presidential election. Republican Donald Trump got less than 37% of the vote in Lake County against Democrat Hillary Clinton's 57% in 2016.
"Democrats have no fear of running against Republicans ... especially with this president at the top of the Republican ticket," Gash said.
Gash insisted she hasn't settled on a Senate nominee yet. She said she's already been contacted by more than 30 people interested in the job.
"There's an embarrassment of riches of people who are qualified to serve and are willing to serve," Gash said. "We're committed to appointing a state senator who is committed to the district and Lake County."
The two state representatives whose districts are within the 30th Senate District -- Rita Mayfield of Waukegan and Daniel Didech of Buffalo Grove -- will be considered, Gash said, as well as other local elected officials.
Mayfield said she's interested, noting she already works hard for constituents in the Senate district.
"I know where the money is," said Mayfield, a lawmaker since 2010. "I know where the resources are."
Didech said he hasn't decided if he'll pursue the post.
"The most important thing to me is that someone is appointed who will be a strong and effective advocate in the legislature," said Didech, who was elected to the House in 2018.
Gash said she won't publicly detail the application and interview process for at least a week.