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Local Column

Solari: Having contested elections best for all

This week began looking like there was going to be a fairly contested race for DeKalb County Circuit Clerk, when Lori Grubbs threw her hat into the ring to fill the seat being vacated by longtime clerk Maureen Josh. There would be a primary race, at least in the Republican Party, and Democrat Rukisha Crawford has already announced her candidacy for the circuit clerk’s seat as well.

Grubbs was going to face Savannah Ilenikhena, who was the first candidate to enter the race back in August, in the Republican primary in March for the nomination. Just a couple of days later, however, Ilenikhena dropped out of the race and threw her support to Grubbs.

I kind of wish she hadn’t.

It’s rare that there is a contested race in local elections. Rarer still in situations like the DeKalb Circuit Clerk’s Office: Maureen Josh has been the circuit clerk since 1984 and hasn’t faced a Democratic challenger since 2008.

It’s not that the circuit clerk’s office is in need of new leadership or is shambles requiring a cleanup. In fact, by all accounts it’s the opposite. Both Grubbs and Ilenikhena, who works for DeKalb County Court Services and, in the past, has worked for the sheriff’s office, said they wouldn’t bring any major changes to the office if they won election.

But in this day and age, when people sometimes run for office with only the qualifications of high name recognition and deep pockets, it’s good to see people vying for the seat also have professional experience to match the job. Too often, it seems people want public jobs without consideration of doing the job itself. Bruce Rauner was elected Illinois governor with no prior experience and was unable to even get a budget passed for the first two years of his term.

There aren’t many “entry level “ jobs in politics though, and it would be cumbersome to require anyone who wants to serve on City Council first serve on the school board, and anyone who would be a senator first have to be a representative. It’s a lot of work and bureaucracy for work that is, more often than, not unpaid.

The circuit clerk race is one of three three countywide offices up for grabs in the 2020 election, and the only one so far that looks contested. State’s Attorney Rick Amato has announced he is running for re-election and, so far, hasn’t drawn any challengers. The coroner’s office also is up for grabs, with no one yet announcing their candidacy.

Half of the 24 seats on the DeKalb County Board also will be up for grabs next year.

I’d like to see every one of those seats challenged. Nothing against the incumbents, most of them do their job and do it well, but competition always brings out the best and, in a republic, we need the best to govern in our interests.

I’m unlikely to get my wish: it’s hard enough to find enough people to work for low or no pay in local government as it is, let alone enough that want to fight for the privilege. But it would still serve the people the best.

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