October 02, 2022
Downers Grove

DuPage County Board Democrats ride blue wave in election

Riding the momentum generated by what some politicos call the blue wave, DuPage County Democrats made significant gains on Election Day, picking up seats on the County Board as well as in countywide offices.

A majority of the County Board seats currently is occupied by Republicans, but the unofficial election results reveal that Democrats could take control.

Currently, the GOP has an 11-7 advantage on the board. Democrats appear to have picked up four seats, giving them the advantage on the 18-member board.

The wins for Democrats included victories in District 2, where Paula Deacon Garcia defeated incumbent Sean Noonan; District 4, where Lynn LaPlante appears to have edged out incumbent Tim Elliott by a few hundred votes; and District 6, where Greg Schwarze beat incumbent Robert Larsen.

The District 5 race featured two nonincumbents from Naperville and was easily won by Amy Chavez.

Overall, Nov. 3 was a good day for DuPage County Democrats.

In addition to seats on the County Board, Democrats won the race for recorder and circuit court clerk, according to unofficial results.

The race for auditor was exceptionally close, with Republican Bob Grogan edging Democratic challenger Bill White, a former member of the Downers Grove Village Council.

“We’ve got demographic shifts that are working in our favor,” said Greg Hose, a Democratic Downers Grove commissioner.

Hose has been actively involved on the political scene in DuPage County for the past 10 to 12 years.

“People are more receptive to Democratic members,” Hose said. “They understand that the Democratic Party is the party of good government and inclusion. I think it says a lot about how hard all of our candidates worked in the last 12 to 18 months.”

DuPage County Board member Julie Renehan said she believes the key to DuPage County Democrats’ success is simple.

“Over time, Democrats have been able to increase the number and quality of their candidates,” Renehan said.

Renehan became the first Democrat to represent District 3 on the County Board when she won election in 2018.

The Hinsdale resident believes people feel they have more choice in how they vote than they did in years past.

DuPage County Board member Brian Krajewski, a Downers Grove Republican, tried to downplay the gains made by Democrats.

“A lot of people voted Democratic at the top of the ticket, but they changed and came back to Republicans,” Krajewski said, referring to local candidates elsewhere on the ballot. Krajewski is projected to retain his seat on the County Board, according to unofficial results, but his opponent, Gail Cabala-Lowry, garnered about 48% of the vote.

Krajewski said his campaign made it a priority to focus on local issues. He added it remains unclear what direction the DuPage County GOP will take in the future to alter messaging.

“They may need to do a better job,” Krajewski said. “What we’re seeing – I’ve seen it constantly in my district – I’ve seen a lot of people move out of the state of Illinois.”

James Zay, the head of the DuPage County GOP, did not return requests for comment.

DuPage County Board member Liz Chaplin, a Democrat, said she thinks the message pushed by the DuPage County Republican Party fell short.

“I think they had a very narrow message that didn’t speak to a lot of people,” Chaplin said. “Their candidates – they ran all men. We had five women running. … I really do think it was a matter of the candidates they had and [President] Donald Trump. It doesn’t resonate with the people of DuPage County.”

Chaplin said the differences in messaging between the DuPage County GOP and Democrats is clear.

“We were more like Build Better DuPage,” said Chaplin, a Downers Grove resident. “There’s was law and order. Democrats had a more positive message than how they were running their campaigns.”

Campaigning in the COVID-19 era brought its share of challenges for Democrats and Republicans.

“We did a great job doing as much virtually as we could, remaining socially distanced and continuing to talk to voters on their doorsteps the best they could,” Hose said.

Renehan said pushing the Democratic Party’s message to the people was critical for candidates.

“When you’re talking local government, we’re not talking about national issues that are so very divisive,” Renehan said. “We’re talking about public health and safety. We can agree on those issues.”