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Local News

Could 'Blue Wave' carry Democrats to victory in Will County?

Local Democrats challenging Republicans in County Board races

It’s no secret Will County Democrats are aiming to add to their numbers in local government, especially on the County Board – where they have been in the minority since 2014.

The Will County Democratic Central Committee has fielded a few hopeful candidates to challenge Republican incumbents in key district races.

Keep in mind that at the County Board level, each district elects two representatives. The top two vote earners in the general election, regardless of party, will sit on the board.

On Nov. 6, Will County Board candidates in Districts 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 11 are up for election.

Bill Thoman, chairman of the Will County Democrats, confirmed gaining a majority on the board is a goal for this election.

Although Republican incumbents have touted tax decreases and while simultaneously sparking big projects such as the new courthouse, Thoman argued there is more that could have been done. He argued that in the past, he’s wanted to see more done with renewable energy savings, and even implement a small gas tax to fund a real estate tax rebate.

Thoman argued a gas tax would have pushed the burden onto many nonresidents, but the Republicans were not willing to go along.

“There’s such a lack of imagination and openness on the part of the Republican County Board caucus,” Thoman said.

Thoman said this year’s crop of candidates was encouraging.

In District 2, political newcomer Amanda Koch (pronounced Cook) is the only Democrat challenging Republican Speaker Jim Moustis.

Koch is a two-tour U.S. Army veteran, former teacher and young mother.

Incumbent Republican Cory Singer lost his seat in the March 20 primary, coming in third in the Republican voting behind Frankfort Village Trustee Keith Ogle and Moustis.

Koch said she’s been focused on talking to voters, and her personal biography seems to resonate with people across the political spectrum. She does admit the race is a challenge, as she is not in a predominately Democratic area. District 2 covers much of Frankfort and Manhattan.

“This race is really about, to me, serving the residents and reaching across the aisle,” Koch said.

In District 6, union electrician Joe Van Duyne of Wilmington is running again as a Democrat. In 2016, he lost by 670 votes to Republican Ragan Freitag. Incumbent Republican Don Gould was the top vote earner in 2016 and is running for re-election.

This time around, truck traffic and a proposed industrial park by NorthPoint Development has been a significant issue.

NorthPoint put in an application with Will County, so the County Board will decide its fate. Several community members in Elwood, Manhattan and Jackson Township have voiced opposition to the proposal. Voters likely will have trucks on their minds on Election Day.

Gould and Van Duyne have publicly come out against the proposal, while incumbent Debbie Militello has not taken a public position. Democrats such as Van Duyne and Koch hope a focus on local issues can cut through the partisan divide and perhaps keep a “Blue Wave” going through Will County government.

“Even strong Republicans ... are coming up to me,” Van Duyne said. “And telling me, ‘Hey you’re doing the right thing. I got your back.’”

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