Lake County clerk, superintendent switch parties for election

Two current Lake County elected officials are hopeful voters won't mind them switching parties next month.

Lake County Clerk Robin O'Connor — elected in 2018 as a Democrat — is seeking her next term as a Republican. And Lake County Superintendent of Schools Michael Karner — appointed to the role as a Republican in 2021 — is running for his first full term as a Democrat.

O'Connor, who announced her decision to switch parties in February, said this week after two years as clerk she decided the Lake County Republican Party was better suited to her beliefs of maintaining integrity in the office.

“They also supported my vision of modernization and improvements,” O'Connor said of Republicans. “I have and always will strive to lead my office with integrity no matter what letter is after my name on the ballot.”

Karner was appointed to replace longtime Superintendent of Schools Roycealee Wood, who served in that role since 2002, by Lake County Board President Sandy Hart, a Democrat, and unanimously was confirmed by county board members.

Wood, who was the only Republican serving in a countywide elected office at the time, retired to focus on her health after contracting COVID-19 and under county rules had to be replaced by a member of her own party.

Karner said shortly after announcing his intention to switch parties in April he wished the role were nonpartisan because his job is helping all the county's students succeed and not politics.

O'Connor will be opposed next month by Anthony Vega, a Grayslake Democrat.

Vega said he thinks it is troubling to hear O'Connor align herself with the party that has made it its mission to undermine democracy by slinging outrageous election conspiracy theories.

“In a time when our democratic process is the most polarized, the most fragile, and under attack, the county clerks are the ones who hold the line when it comes to the election process,” Vega said.

Karner will face Terence Q. O'Brien, a Lake Villa Republican, in November.

O'Brien said he wasn't sure of the reason Karner is switching parties and said it worked in his favor because it allowed him a chance to run for the position.

“I would rather be reflective of the excitement I'm seeing about education in the county,” O'Brien said when asked to comment on Karner's decision to switch parties.

Michael Karner, left and Terry O'Brien are candidates for Lake County Regional Schools Superintendent in the 2022 general election.
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