There’s certain things one didn’t expect in a lifetime. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Warsaw Pact/communism as we knew it were two.
It was then that Sheriff Mark Curran, a Democrat turned Republican, learned he had been beaten by Democrat political newcomer John Idleberg. The margin was 137 votes, which once again should prove to doubters that every vote, indeed, counts.
Once all the votes were counted, Democrat candidates prevailed in races in normally Republican Lake County Board districts and two state House races. Indeed, it was a shocking, historic election for county Democrats. Who knew a lake could make that big a wave?
In a clean sweep, Democrat candidates won the sheriff, treasurer and county clerk’s office. Democrats flipped five Lake County Board seats held by Republicans and now control the County Board for the first time in history.
One of the County Board GOP losers was Carol Calabresa of Libertyville, the interim board chair. She was bested by Jennifer Clark in District 15.
Democrat Mary Edly-Allen defeated appointed incumbent Republican state Rep. Helene Miller Walsh in the once-solid Republican 51st District. While only one vote separated the two on Election Night, Edly-Allen won by more than 200 votes after all the votes were counted.
Of course, Democrats are crowing about the “blue tsunami” that inundated county GOPsters. Like Lauren Beth Gash of Highland Park, the founding chair of the Tenth Dems, the grassroots group that works to elect Democrats at all levels within the 10th Congressional District.
“Democrats did very well in 2016 and in the municipal elections in 2017, so this year’s success continues that trend,” Gash said. “These victories show that Democrats in the 10th District are energized, organized and winning over voters while local Republicans prove themselves to be out of the mainstream and out of touch. There’s a clear contrast and voters are clearly siding with Democrats.”
There’s no doubt the cocky Lake County Democrats are on a roll. They’re full of pep and vinegar after gubernatorial coattails and repugnance toward the Trump administration swept them into office.
We’ve seen this before in the mid-1970s, when county Democrats took advantage of voters’ disenchantment with another disliked Republican presidential administration, taking out their anger all the way to the local level. That’s when county voters in 1974 elected Democrat Sheriff E.J. “Chick” LaMagdeleine, the long-time police chief of Mundelein.
He, too, knocked off an incumbent Republican, Orville “Pat” Clavey of Gurnee, whose administration was dogged by allegations of corruption. LaMagdeleine, who never meshed with the deputies under him, lasted four years.
He was defeated in 1978 by Republican Thomas Brown, a sheriff’s deputy, who also was the county’s last elected top lawman to come directly from the deputy ranks of the sheriff’s office. Brown, too, lasted only four years, getting beaten in the 1982 Republican primary by Robert “Mickey” Babcox. There’s probably someone within the current deputy ranks already mulling a run in 2022.
We’ve also seen county Republicans come roaring back to life in previous years when they took it on the chin at the ballot box. They now have between two and four years to mount serious challenges to take back what they lost Nov. 6, to rebuild their once-mighty grassroots alliance and alter tactics in a changing political landscape.
One place to start is take a page from the Dems’ playbook and start a local-local organization like the 10th Dems, which offers classes in how to win elections. For a long game, that seems to have worked.
Republicans also need to recruit new faces, as Democrats have done with their slates of candidates. Dems have had great success of late with that strategy.
If Republicans don’t see the Nov. 6 outcome as a wake-up call and fail in two years to retain offices they currently hold and keep County Board seats, Lake County will not just be deep blue. It will be solidly in the statewide Democratic Party’s grasp.
Charles Selle is a former News-Sun reporter, political editor and editor.
Region: Lake County,City: Waukegan,Local,Region: Suburbs
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November 26, 2018 at 10:15AM