By Paul Gorski
Democrat Chuck Jefferson recently retired from his office of State Representative of the 67th District. The 67th District covers a large part of Rockford and a few neighborhoods outside the city. The 67th District is a strong Democratic district, and the local Democratic Party has the responsibility of filling the vacancy.
Dorothy “Dot” Turner is a newly-elected Democratic state central committeeman for part of Winnebago County and 13 other Illinois counties. State central committee members are elected by Democrats and Republicans in their respective primary elections to represent their party’s interests at the state level.
Turner held a press conference last week to share her constituents’ questions about filling the vacancy. Turner wants to ensure the appointment process is open and transparent, as required by state party guidelines. She raised the question why the vacancy was not being filled by a special election. Local party officials responded that a three-person panel would fill the vacancy. However, state law does not mention either method for filling the vacancy.
State law is clear in that the local Democratic or Republican organization, depending on the office holder’s party affiliation, is responsible for filling this vacancy. Since state representatives run every two years, it does not make sense to have a special election for such a short term. However, the three-person appointment panel quoted in the local press last week is a long-held party process not listed in state law.
State law (10 ILCS 5/25-6) reads: “In making appointments under this Section, each committeeman of the appropriate legislative or representative committee shall be entitled to one vote for each vote that was received, in that portion of the legislative or representative district which he represents on the committee, by the Senator or Representative whose seat is vacant at the general election at which that legislator was elected to the seat which has been vacated and a majority of the total number of votes received in such election by the Senator or Representative whose seat is vacant is required for the appointment of his successor.”
Essentially, each Democratic precinct committee member from the 67th District is entitled to a “weighted” vote; a vote equal to the number of votes he or she received in the last election. I am not sure where the three-person panel came from; the law seems clear that the Democratic 67th District precinct committee members should vote directly on the appointment.
I commend Dot Turner for raising public awareness about this process. Democrats may control the appointment, but the appointee will represent all people in the district. Turner is doing her job and trying to educate the public. That said, local Democratic Party officials will be discussing the appointment rules at the next Winnebago County Democratic Central Committee meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, July 17, at the UAW Hall, 112 N. Second St, Rockford. I encourage local Democrats to attend this meeting.
Disclosure: I am a Democratic precinct committeeman in the 67th District, but this article may not win me points with some Democrats. Therefore, I remain your humble journalist servant.
Paul Gorski (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.
From the July 16-22, 2014, issue