These Northwest suburban races have generated controversy ahead of Tuesday's election

Most races for village and school boards don't gather much attention, even in the towns they serve.

Significantly lower voter turnout rates than during presidential and midterm federal elections are proof of that.

But this year, several suburban contests have generated significant public debate - and garnered more than the usual coverage from journalists and radio talk-show hosts.

Some even caught the eye of Gov. J.B. Pritzker and leaders with the Democratic Party of Illinois, who teamed up in an unprecedented way to spend $500,000 to combat the influence of conservative groups in local elections.

Here's a look at some of the hot races in the suburbs.

District 211

Majority control of the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board could be determined on Election Day, as 10 candidates are running for four of the panel's seven seats.

The state's new comprehensive sex education curriculum was a divisive issue in the race, as were the groups that supported the candidates.

Incumbents Kimberly Cavill and Steve Rosenblum, along with newcomers Michelle Barron and Jane Russell, are supported by the district's teachers union and a local political action committee called Palatine Supports Public Schools.

Incumbents Mark Cramer and Peter Dombrowski, along with new candidates Susan Saam and Barbara Velez, criticized the sex education program's adoption and are supported by a conservative group called Citizens For Kids Education, or C4KE.

Aiden Branss and Meenal Dewan backed the controversial curriculum but ran independently.

Angela Geitner and Joan Sherrill dropped out of the race but still are on the ballot.

District 220

Seven candidates are running for three seats on the Barrington Community Unit District 220 school board.

Two of them, incumbents Leah Collister-Lazzari and Barry Altshuler, touted the board's accomplishments during their tenures, including balancing the budget and keeping students safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Challengers Leonard Munson, Matt Sheriff and Katey Baldassano, who are running as a slate, were backed by the political action committee for a group called the 1776 Project that put out a flyer criticizing Collister-Lazzari and Altshuler for voting to leave the book "Gender Queer" on Barrington High School shelves and for keeping students out of school during the pandemic.

A different mailer from the group urged voters to support an "academic excellence platform" that would "remove pornographic reading materials" and "end the radical equity agenda."

Another challenger, Nelda Munoz, opposed "Gender Queer" in public comments at school board meetings.

And candidate Diana L. Clopton said she wants "to be a bridge builder" and celebrate what's great about the district.


The race for three seats on Mundelein's village board got more media attention than usual because of inflammatory comments made by one of the candidates.

Incumbents Kerston Russell, Erich Schwenk and Kara Lambert are running against former Trustee Robin Meier and local resident Ramesh Sharma.

During a joint video interview with the Daily Herald, Sharma, who is Indian American, argued that Asian people are smarter than others. When asked to elaborate, Sharma said Asian people are more educated than those who are Latino, white or Black. All the other candidates objected to Sharma's remarks, with one calling them racist and inappropriate.

Sharma dropped out of the race after the interview but later resumed his campaign.

District 121

The race for three seats on the Gurnee-based Warren Township High School District 121 school board features two incumbents - Steve Carlson and Tony DeMonte - and challengers Beth Pope, Marc Piszkiewicz, Lynn Ulrich and Mercedes Schackleford.

During an online interview with the Daily Herald, Carlson criticized Ulrich for social media posts she'd made that referred to the "staging" of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. DeMonte, Piszkiewicz and Pope also were critical of Ulrich.

"I just don't think there's any room on a board for anyone who ... can't deal in reality, because when you are not dealing in reality you just can't make effective leadership decisions," Pope said.

During the same interview, Schackleford, a nurse, was criticized for seeking medical exemptions for her children so they didn't have to wear masks while attending school during the pandemic.

Ulrich didn't attend the session or respond to requests for comment. Schackleford didn't attend the session but, in an email last week, said she "will stand by what I believe regardless of what others think."

Home rule

Voters in Wauconda and Lakemoor will decide whether their communities should gain home-rule powers - and organized opposition arose in both towns.

The home rule designation is automatic for towns with at least 25,000 residents, but it requires voter approval in smaller communities.

Officials in home-rule communities can raise taxes or create new ones. Leaders in both towns say they need that ability to generate new revenue.

If approved, Wauconda plans to create a 1% sales tax that could generate between $1.2 million and $1.7 million annually for roadwork.

In Lakemoor, officials have proposed creating a 1% gas tax to cover the roughly $700,000 annual cost of state-mandated police pensions.

A Springfield-based group called REALTORS in Opposition to Home Rule is fighting the proposals by sending mailers to residents.

One piece circulating in Wauconda alleges groceries will cost more. But village officials say the mailer is misleading because the sales tax won't apply to groceries, prescription drugs, vehicles and other titled goods.

A flyer going to homes in Lakemoor says home rule takes power away from residents and allows politicians to create taxes without voter approval. Officials there say they'll only use the money for the pension payment.

Officials in both communities approved ordinances limiting home-rule powers.

• Daily Herald staff writers Doug T. Graham, Eric Peterson, Steve Zalusky and Mick Zawislak contributed to this report.

Mundelein candidate says Asians are smarter; opponents call remark racist

How Dist. 211 candidates view sex ed curriculum

Des Plaines candidates divided about video gambling at restaurants, bars

Mundelein candidate who slighted different races' intelligence resumes campaign

Des Plaines council candidates tout communication skills, experience

And then there were 10; District 211 candidate withdraws from race after forum

  Tuesday is Election Day, and voters across the suburbs will find hotly contested races on their ballots. Brian Hill/, 2020
Top from left, Barry Altshuler, Katey Baldassano, Diana L. Clopton, Leah Collister Lazzari and, bottom from left, Nelda Munoz, Leonard Munson, Matt Sheriff are candidates for Barrington Community Unit District 220 school board on Tuesday.
Mundelein village board candidates, top from left, Russell Kerston, Kara Lambert, Robin Meier and, bottom from left, Erich Schwenk and Ramesh Sharma are on Tuesday's ballot.
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