How two write-in candidates triggered a Campton Hills primary
With a population hovering around 11,000, Campton Hills qualifies as a "sleepy" village.
But a buzz is building in the Kane County town west of St. Charles thanks to an unusual primary election slated for Feb. 23.
A glance at the ballot would make most voters wonder why a primary is even necessary: On paper, three candidates are vying for three seats on the village board, so there appears to be no field to thin before the April 6 general election.
What triggered the Campton Hills primary were two names that don't appear on the February ballot -- write-in candidates who missed the filing deadline but still want to run. And why the village is obligated to respond with a primary, when most towns are not, is because of state election changes enacted in the 1990s that affect municipalities incorporated later, including Campton Hills.
The primary neither side wanted will cost Kane County up to $13,000, according to Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham.
Write-in candidates Timothy Morgan and Kim Weiss blame village officials for a lack of transparency.
Because of its primary system, Campton Hills had a candidate filing window of Nov. 16-23 instead of the Dec. 14-21 window for the general election in many other towns.
Morgan, who emailed Village Clerk Lynn Baez on Nov. 18 about the filing process, and Weiss say they weren't aware of the early window.
"There's a lack of communication, first of all," said Morgan, a managing director at Spanesi Americas, which imports equipment for car body shops. "I don't feel like they answered my questions correctly. From the beginning, they were being indecisive."
Baez disputes Morgan's claims, saying public notification for candidates -- which isn't required, according to state statute -- was "visibly posted" on the front entrance at the village hall for 10 days before the filing window opened. While the village hall was closed for public entry due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was not closed for operations, she said.
When Morgan emailed her, Baez said, she replied with a link to the Illinois State Board of Elections website detailing the filing process and advised him to consult an attorney about filing issues.
According to the Kane County clerk's office, the write-in candidates need 61 votes in the primary to appear on the April ballot, a number determined by a percentage of the turnout in a previous election. The three candidates already on the primary ballot need just one vote each.
Two of the trustee candidates currently on the ballot are incumbents. The third, Ed Muncie, is a new candidate who said he regularly attends village meetings.
Muncie said he simply followed the guidelines outlined in the state's candidate guide for nonpartisan primaries in towns such as Campton Hills to ensure he met the deadline.
"Every citizen that wishes to volunteer their service to our community deserves the chance to get involved," Muncie said. "After they (Morgan and Weiss) get enough votes in the primary, then our village will have a chance to consider all five candidates interested in serving our community on the ballot in April."
Morgan, though, feels the village could have been more open about the process.
Why, he wonders, was the only form of public notification a piece of paper taped to the front door of a village hall that was closed to the public? And why didn't Baez tell Morgan about the early filing window when he sent his email?
Weiss was in Florida when she learned of the earlier window. After finding a notary and overnighting paperwork to a friend, she was able to meet the deadline for being a write-in candidate.
"I was totally blindsided," said Weiss, who runs the Old Towne Pub in Campton Hills with her husband. "No one was aware of the primary. It's something that they don't normally do, so I think everyone was confused."
Regardless of the dispute, there's agreement that the circumstances for the Campton Hills primary are unusual.
Larger towns such as Aurora, Elgin and North Aurora also have early filing windows and the possibility of primaries, but they are triggered there when four or more people file for one seat. Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles are among the towns that filed in the more-common December window for the general election.
"We'd rather not have the primary because it's costing us money, but the state statute requires that we do," Cunningham said. "It's a matter of that being the rule, and we have to follow it."
Campton Hills also needed a primary in 2015. In that case, it was triggered by a slate of candidates deciding to run late in the process.
This situation may be different, but Campton Hills has endured its share of political drama.
"It's a tangled web," Morgan said. "There has to be a reason why I was steered the wrong direction."