Democrats see huge gains in Lake County government now that all the votes are counted

  • Democrat Jennifer Banek won the race for Lake County Coroner.

    Democrat Jennifer Banek won the race for Lake County Coroner.

 
 
Updated 11/17/2020 10:47 PM

Two weeks after the counting began in Lake County, it is finally over and the Lake County Democrats have won nearly every race, according to unofficial totals.

Democrats won all four races for countywide elected offices and in seven of the eight Lake County Board district races on the Nov. 3 ballot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Lake County Clerk Robin O'Connor uploaded the final tranche of votes Tuesday evening, around 2,600 provisional and late-arriving mail ballots.

Republican incumbent Coroner Dr. Howard Cooper was handily defeated by Democratic challenger Jennifer Banek. Banek now has 171,586 votes to Cooper's 152,069.

Cooper said throughout the last two weeks that he wouldn't concede one way or the other until the last of the votes were uploaded by the clerk's office. He said Tuesday evening he looks forward to a smooth transition.

"I'm extremely proud of what we've done in the office the last four years and it's certainly a shame we couldn't continue," Cooper said. "I know that I'm leaving behind some incredible folks who I truly enjoyed working with."

Banek, a nurse anesthesiologist from Green Oaks, said she was very excited to get going and said being coroner would be her full-time job. She said she will hit the ground running because there are active talks with deputies in the office about their union contract.

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The other incumbent Republican in a countywide-elected office to be defeated by a Democrat was Mike Nerheim, who congratulated Eric Rinehart on his victory last week.

Nerheim, who took office in December 2012, initially led Rinehart 41,757 votes to 25,335 votes on election night when the results were mostly made up of ballots cast in person that day. Since then, O'Connor's office has processed tens of thousands of vote-by-mail ballots. With all the counting done, Nerheim lost with 155,710 votes to Rinehart's 169,218 votes.

The story is the same for nearly every other Republican running in Lake County races. Most were ahead initially before watching their leads vanish as vote-by-mail ballots were processed.

Incumbent Democrats Circuit Court Clerk Erin Cartwright Weinstein and Recorder of Deeds Mary Ellen Vanderventer won their races by 42,948 votes and 65,496 votes, respectively.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

For the county board, incumbent Republican Linda Pedersen of District 1 was the only member of her party to win. She earned 10,975 votes to challenger Chase Andrew Thomas' 6,057 votes.

The three other Republican incumbents on the ballot, Steve Carlson of District 7, Mike Rummel of District 12 and Brent Paxton of District 4 all lost. Democrats now will hold a 15-6 majority on the county board.

Carlson, of Grantwood Park, conceded the race last week to Carissa Casbon, a Democrat from Warren Township, who was got 9,355 votes to Carlson's 8,301. Carlson had held the seat since 2002.

Rummel, of Lake Forest, lost to Democrat Paras Parekh 9,585 votes to 10,719 and Paxton, of Zion, lost to Democrat Gina Roberts 6.794 votes to 8,008.

Incumbent Democrat and county board Chair Sandy Hart of Lake Bluff won 7,457 votes to Republican Lauren Fleming's 5,111 in District 13.

District 16 incumbent Democrat Terry Wilke of Round Lake Beach tallied 5,919 votes to 4,186 for challenger John C. Frazier.

Democratic incumbent Diane Hewitt of Waukegan had 8,933 votes to challenger Paul Christensen's 3,542 votes in District 2.

Incumbent Democrat Marah Altenberg of Buffalo Grove, appointed in March to fill a vacancy, was leading with 10,081 votes to challenger Soojae Lee's 6,656 in a race to fill an unexpired 2-year term in District 20.

O'Connor said the totals would be canvassed and made official on Thursday.

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