State Rep. Deb Conroy is poised to become the first woman to lead the DuPage County Board, an office held only by Republican men for generations.
On a strong night for DuPage Democrats, Conroy jumped out ahead early and maintained a comfortable lead over Hinsdale Republican Greg Hart in a hard-fought and expensive race for county board chair.
Just before 11 p.m., Conroy had collected 165,668 votes, or 50.8% of the total, unofficial results show. Hart had 160,227, or 49%.
If the results hold, Conroy, 60, will replace outgoing county board Chairman Dan Cronin, an Elmhurst Republican who did not seek a fourth term.
“We’re celebrating. We made history,” Conroy said late Tuesday.
The race to succeed Cronin saw unprecedented spending with both candidates airing TV ads in the stretch run. Hart, a management consultant, enjoyed a fundraising advantage. His campaign had more than $1.7 million in cash on hand, while Conroy had $924,058, according to Reform for Illinois’ Sunshine Database.
But Conroy, a state lawmaker for the past decade, was bolstered by name recognition, a longer political resume and support from party bigwigs. Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and House Majority Leader Greg Harris each funneled $50,000 from their campaign funds in October to back Conroy’s bid, state filings show.
“I have worked very hard as a full-time legislator,” Conroy said. “I think people know that and they see that and hear that. And I think they understand that I was the right leader to write the next chapter in DuPage County.”
Democrats were on track to retain the county board majority they won two years ago – a sea change in DuPage politics.
“I think we had the best candidates,” Conroy said. “I think that DuPage is a very richly diverse county, and I think our candidates reflected that.”
She said she had not yet received a concession call from Hart. But with an apparent victory, Conroy will take office on Dec. 5.
Like many national Democrats, Conroy sought to galvanize voters by stressing her support for abortion rights and proposing to remove the late congressman Henry Hyde’s name from the county’s judicial office building. The Hyde Amendment restricts federal funding for abortion.
Conroy also wants to open an intake center on the county government campus where “anyone arrested with mental health or addiction issues” could get treatment rather than being incarcerated.
“It’ll be one of the first in the state and it will change the way we treat people,” she said.
Hart, 35, won his first full term on the county board just five years ago, but he’s been embraced by members of the GOP old guard. He gave up a chance at reelection to his District 3 seat on the board to make a run for chair.