By Paul Gorski
I plan to discuss the recent local election results, but first, congratulations to Margie Mullins (D) for her re-election to Winnebago County Clerk and to Gary Caruana (R) for his election to Winnebago County Sheriff. Caruana succeeds the retiring sheriff Richard “Dick” Meyers. Mullins and Caruana won their respective races by similar margins, 55 percent.
I have written many articles encouraging readers to vote. Many of you did vote, thank you. Winnebago County has two election authorities. The Rockford Board of Election Commissioners supervises elections for the residents of Rockford. The Winnebago County Clerk supervises elections for all other areas in Winnebago County. Rockford election officials report that almost 43 percent of the 76,685 registered voters in Rockford voted in the recent election. The County Clerk’s Office reports that voter turnout was 49 percent of the 88,662 registered county voters outside the city of Rockford.
Reviewing those numbers, there are more registered voters outside Rockford than in the city, and there was a 6 percent better turnout among county voters than city voters. Given the county voters typically lean Republican, it is little wonder that overall the county leaned Republican. Or did it? Just looking at the County Clerk’s numbers, these Democrats took the county: Margie Mullins, Lisa Madigan, Jesse White and Cheri Bustos. County Treasurer Susan Goral won an uncontested race. It appears county voters are a bit more independent than some of the local political pundits would have us believe.
The notion that Rockford is a bastion of Democratic voters was challenged by Caruana, too. Caruana not only won the county, but also the city, albeit by a handful of votes. This after one sheriff primary candidate, Randy Olson, switched from the Republican to the Democratic ticket to run for what he thought was a solidly Democratic office. Olson lost his Democratic primary, and I am not sure if he would have done any better if he had run as a Republican.
Those darn feel-good advisory referenda the state Democrats created to increase voter turnout did pretty well in Republican-leaning Winnebago County, too. For example, city voters supported the minimum wage increase question, but so did county voters. The county-only numbers supporting the minimum wage increase question were pretty close to the sheriff race numbers. This despite Pat Quinn losing to Bruce Rauner for governor, and Rauner not being a big fan of raising the minimum wage. What can we learn from this?
We have learned your vote matters. The sheriff’s position changed party hands, certain Democrats kept their offices despite stiff competition, and progressive-leaning questions put to the voters did pretty well, despite certain candidates opposing these questions winning their offices, too. Every vote in every race counts. Thank you for voting.
To potential candidates: local voters are thinking about their choices. Local residents are willing to vote for change when they like the candidate or the proposition put before them. So, let us give the voters good candidates and real reasons to come out and vote.
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 Nov. 19-25, 2014, issue