Primary voters on Tuesday will select their party’s nominees for various state and congressional seats to advance to the November general election.
But with so much focus on the top-tier races, it’s easy to overlook down-ballot contests that will help shape the political landscape in DuPage County.
Here’s a rundown of some of the marquee county races and referendum questions worth watching when voters go to the polls.
County board chairman
A new DuPage County Board chairman will be elected this fall for the first time in 12 years. Elmhurst Republican Dan Cronin is stepping down after three terms as chairman.
County board members Pete DiCianni and Greg Hart are battling for the chance to succeed Cronin and keep the seat in the GOP column.
The outcome could send a message about Cronin’s self-styled brand of moderate politics. Cronin has backed Hart along with a who’s who of establishment conservatives like former Illinois House Speaker Lee Daniels.
A former Elmhurst mayor, DiCianni has endorsements from Oak Brook Village President Gopal Lalmalani and other municipal leaders.
The primary rivals have spent significant cash for a county-level race. DiCianni loaned his campaign $250,000 last summer before Cronin formally announced he was out of the running.
Hart’s campaign has held the fundraising advantage, netting $25,000 from the Chicagoland Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC last month and a $50,000 donation from a Roselle business, Electri-flex, at the start of the year.
DiCianni highlights his role in drafting state legislation that expanded health insurance coverage for children with autism.
He pushed for another bill that allowed police to administer epinephrine auto-injectors.
“I think that speaks volumes for my leadership and my ability to cross the aisle and get things done,” DiCianni said. “And as a non-home rule chairman, we need Springfield in our corner.”
Hart sees the chairman’s job differently.
“Even though the role of the chairman is not to propose and push legislation, we need relationships there to get things done, because we are uniquely tied to some decisions that are made down there, and I intend to tap those relationships,” said Hart, pointing to his work with a state lawmaker to boost access to COVID-19 testing.
DiCianni has been on the county board since 2012. Hart, a management consultant from Hinsdale, joined the board in 2017. Neither is seeking reelection to their board seats.
For the primary winner, the celebration will be short-lived. The GOP nominee will face state Rep. Deb Conroy in November. The Villa Park Democrat is running unopposed in the party’s primary for county board chair.
Glen Ellyn District 89
Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89 is asking voters to approve a $27 million borrowing plan to pay for infrastructure projects at all five schools.
“All of our facilities are over 50 years old, and there is maintenance and repair that needs to be done in order to ensure that our buildings remain healthy and safe for our students and staff,” Superintendent Emily Tammaru said.
The district last issued bonds in 2008 and again in 2009 after voters approved $24.8 million to add air conditioning, upgrade technology and make building repairs in schools.
The district paid off the 2008 bonds last year. With that debt off the books, average homeowners saw a $239 reduction in the district’s portion of their property tax bills they received just last month.
“That decrease is already locked in, regardless of the outcome of the referendum,” officials said in an FAQ. The owner of a house valued at $421,000 is the average in the district.
With voter approval, the district is proposing to renew the set of bonds issued in 2009, extending the life of the debt and resulting in an additional $4 tax decrease for the average homeowner.
If the measure fails, the average homeowner’s tax bill would decrease even further, by about $306.
“Instead of us being able to do the work over the course of a couple years, it will take upward to 20 years to complete this work with our existing operations budget,” Tammaru said.
With the additional funding, the district would install more secure building entrances by relocating main offices at Arbor View and Briar Glen elementary schools. The district would replace quarter-century-old boilers used to heat the two elementary schools. At all five campuses, the district would replace deteriorating parking lots.
“We’re talking about roofs. We’re talking about mechanical systems. We’re talking about windows,” Tammaru said. “We’re talking about lighting. We’re talking about projects that are going to have to be done regardless.”
Most of the work would be completed in the summers of 2023 and 2024.
County Board District 2
Republicans will try to wrest back control of the county board from Democrats in the general election. Every seat will be open because of redistricting. Democrats now hold 11 seats on the 18-member board.
But there’s no shortage of competition this primary cycle.
Six Republicans are running for their party’s nod in District 2, a triangular piece of northeastern DuPage. DiCianni’s campaign for the board chairmanship opened up the incumbent-free race in the district.
The candidates are former county board member Sean Noonan, financial adviser Grant Dungan, attorney Daniel Kordik, attorney John Simpson, Elmhurst Ald. Jennifer Veremis and political neophyte Nicole Giannini.
The Democratic primary features 10-year incumbent Liz Chaplin; Paula Deacon Garcia, who’s vying for her second term; and two newcomers, Yeena Yoo and Maryann Vazquez.
Voters will pick three nominees in each primary race.