Wheeling presidential challenger Smith getting support from donors at odds with Mayor Horcher

  • Pat Horcher, left, and Mark Smith are running for village president in Wheeling.

    Pat Horcher, left, and Mark Smith are running for village president in Wheeling.

 
 
Updated 3/29/2021 6:32 AM

The man challenging Wheeling Village President Pat Horcher in the April 6 election has received substantial campaign donations from people at odds with the current administration, relatives of such foes and businesses owned by such adversaries, state documents show.

Moving Wheeling Forward, the campaign slate led by mayoral hopeful Mark Smith, has accepted contributions from a pair of local businesses owned or co-owned by Wheeling resident David Kolssak, who unsuccessfully ran for village president in 2009 and led the failed effort to remove Horcher from office in 2018, Illinois State Board of Elections records reveal.

 

Additionally, a separate committee called Citizens for Mark Smith has received donations from supporters including attorney Al Stavros, documents show. Stavros' son, Nicholas, once was Wheeling's prosecutor but was dismissed in 2018, about a year after Horcher took office.

In contrast, Horcher said he is using his own cash to run and has filed no disclosure reports for this campaign.

What records show

Candidates for local, county or state offices who raise or spend at least $5,000 must file quarterly financial disclosure reports with the state board of elections. They must also file individual reports for donations of $1,000 or more as they come in.

Reports are viewable online at elections.il.gov.

Smith, a real estate developer and builder with Wheeling-based Smith Family Construction, leads the Moving Wheeling Forward slate. The other members are trustee hopefuls Lee Waller, Kim Scanlon and Laura Rodriguez and clerk candidate Kathy Brady.

The Moving Wheeling Forward committee formed in January and has reported receiving five donations of $1,000 or more, all this month, records show.

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They include $2,500 from Kolssak Funeral Home and $2,500 from TURNKEY Network Systems. David Kolssak is one of the funeral home's co-owners and he's also Turnkey's founder and CEO.

In addition to his 2009 mayoral run, Kolssak served on the Wheeling-based Chicago Executive Airport board from 2005 until he was ousted by Horcher in 2018. Wheeling and Prospect Heights co-own the airport and control who serves on the board.

At the time, Kolssak accused Horcher of making a power play for control of the airport. Horcher said he asked Kolssak to step down to stave off aggressive expansion at the facility.

Earlier this year, Kolssak publicly accused Village Manager Jon Sfondilis of mistreating local business owners. He also has criticized trustees supporting a pay raise for Sfondilis.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Citizens for Mark Smith committee formed in December 2020 and filed its first quarterly fundraising report in January.

The committee reported receiving $9,000 in donations in December, including $2,500 from lawyer Al Stavros, who lives in Lake Zurich but has an office in Wheeling. Son Nicholas Stavros served as the village's prosecutor from July 2015 until he was fired by police Chief Jamie Dunne in July 2018, village documents indicate. Dunne's termination letter didn't cite a reason.

Smith also reported receiving thousands of dollars in political donations from three businesses owned by Wheeling resident Vladimir Vareldzhyan -- JerVal and JV Global Services, which are trucking-related operations in Wheeling, and Deerfield-based V.V.V. Diamond Services.

Vareldzhyan appeared at a recent village board meeting to complain about what he described as mistreatment by village officials and to announce he's backing Smith.

Smith said he and his allies are getting support from Wheeling businesses because they "are new faces for our local government with fresh ideas."

As for expenses, Smith's quarterly report showed a $3,000 payment to an Inverness political consulting firm called Cor Strategies that specializes in right-of-center candidates.

A different approach

Smith alleged Horcher is struggling to get financial support. But Horcher said he deliberately is self-funding his campaign, just as he did in 2017.

"I have had offers of donations but don't accept them because I think it looks like the candidate then owes some debt," said Horcher, a florist at Horcher's Country Flowers in Wheeling. "Also. I don't want to deal with the paperwork."

Horcher said he spent about $500 on yard signs and owes about $250 for a mailing he did with the candidates running with him under the Keep Wheeling Rolling banner. The others are incumbent trustees Jim Ruffatto, Mary Krueger and Mary Papantos and clerk candidate Debbie Acevedo.

The Keep Wheeling Rolling group is informal and hasn't registered as a campaign committee. Like Horcher, none of the candidates associated with the group have filed disclosure reports.

Horcher said he intends to release a personal campaign mailer before Election Day. He doesn't expect his expenses for the race will exceed $2,500.

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