DeKALB – With 32 people running for 24 positions, the DeKalb County Board could see a major shakeup after the Nov. 6 election.
Party control favors Republicans, 13 to 11, on the existing board, but the election could tilt the balance of power to either party. In best-case scenarios for the respective parties, Republicans could increase their control with a 17 to 7 margin, while Democrats could seize the majority for the first time since 2009 with a 15 to 9 advantage.
Only six incumbents have no opponents and are guaranteed to return in 2013, with an even split between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans Charles Foster, John Gudmunson and Dan Cribben will return, along with Democrats Ruth Anne Tobias, Bob Brown and Sally DeFauw.
Newcomers Tracy Jones and Misty Haji-Sheikh guarantee another seat for Republicans and Democrats, respectively.
With so many potential outcomes, party leaders Steve Kuhn and Mark Pietrowski Jr. have been busy the past few months, organizing and executing campaigns for their candidates.
Kuhn, chairman for the DeKalb County Republicans, said the party has focused on targeted mailing to independent voters in contested areas, specifically in Districts 4, 5 and 9 where a Republican is battling two Democrats for one of two seats.
Although those races could be close, Kuhn said he is confident his party will increase its representation on the board.
“I would expect that we would maintain the majority on the County Board,” he said. “We’ll have 14 or 15 seats.”
Pietrowski, chairman for the DeKalb County Democrats, admitted it will be an uphill climb for his party to regain the majority, but he said it has happened before in similar circumstances.
Democrats enter the election targeting seats in districts that were created by county Republicans after they gained control of the board in 2010. Pietrowski said a computer-generated map was bypassed for a partisan map that split communities for political gain. He specifically noted Cortland was divided among three districts while Somonauk was split between two districts.
But Democrats overcame a Republican-drawn map in 2004 to gain control of the board, and
Pietrowski believes it could happen again.
“These current districts weren’t designed to have Democrats win, that’s for sure,” he said. “But our candidates have been working hard getting their message out to the voters. We’re going to fight in every district.”
Political control of the board is not the be-all, end-all, said outgoing Board Chairman Larry Anderson.
Anderson, a Malta Republican, has spent eight years on the County Board, including two as its leader.
He said political affiliations often become less important as board members develop working relationships that keep the best interests of the county and taxpayers in mind.
“There are a couple of Democrats I have really enjoyed working with over the years,” he said. “On some things we disagree, but on many things we are able to work together for the betterment of the county.”
Adding to the potential shakeup is the departure of DeKalb County Administrator Ray Bockman, who has held the top government position for more than 30 years.
County Board members are expected to select a successor in November before a new board is seated.
Board members are scheduled to hold closed-door interviews with finalists today.