LAKE COUNTY, IL — Lake County voters are filling four countywide offices on Election Day, along with a referendum that would eliminate one of their jobs. The incumbents include two Republicans and two Democrats. Eight seats on the 21-member Lake County Board are also on the ballot, four held by Republicans and four by Democrats.
As of Monday afternoon, about 230,000 voters in Lake County had already voted, representing more than 47 percent of the county's active registered voters and about 75 percent of the total number of votes cast in the county in the past presidential election. Under Illinois law, counting of early and mail-in votes must begin between 7 and 8 p.m. Tuesday. Updated results will be available below once polls close.
Of the four countywide jobs to fill, the campaign to become the county's top prosecutor has been among the most contentious. Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim, a Gurnee Republican, is seeking to fend off a challenge from criminal defense attorney Eric Rinehart, a Highwood Democrat, to secure a third term in office.
Nerheim, the incumbent, touted successes creating specialized units, establishing an independent case review panel and co-founding a multi-agency initiative to prevent opioid addiction and abuse. He was endorsed by the editorial boards of the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Herald, as well as United Hellenic Voters of America and the Lake County Farm Bureau. He has a law degree from John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
Rinehart, the challenger, promised to make the criminal law system fair to underserved communities while also dedicating more resources to prosecuting serious violent felonies. After starting his career with two years at a Chicago civil law firm, he spent six years as a public defender in Lake County before starting his own firm in 2009. Rinehart has been endorsed by the political action organization spun out of Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign, other progressive political action committees and local unions. He has a law degree from the University of Chicago.
In the race to become Lake County Coroner, first-term incumbent Howard Cooper, a Wadsworth Republican and dentist with experience as a forensic odontologist, faces Green Oaks Democrat Jennifer Banek, a nurse anesthesiologist and captain in the Army reserves who also serves as a library trustee. Cooper has received endorsements from the Chicago Tribune and Daily Herald editorial boards.
Unlike the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, which is led by appointed professional forensic pathologists, the chief of the Lake County Coroner Office is an elected position that does not require any specific expertise. Both candidates' campaigns focused more on how they would prevent people from dying than how they would improve the office's death investigations in the future.
Both candidates running to become Lake County recorder of deeds want to be the county's final recorder. Democratic incumbent Mary Ellen Vanderventer, of Waukegan, and Deerfield Republican Emilia Czyszczon support the countywide referendum that calls for the recorder's office to be eliminated and merged with the Lake County Clerk's Office.
Vanderventer is seeking a seventh term as recorder after asking the Lake County Board to place the question eliminating the office on the ballot. She touted her prior experience in the clerk's office as preparation for merging the two. Czyszczon is a project management consultant who held a petition drive seeking to get the referendum on the ballot and said her experience helping clients merge companies in the private sector qualified her for the role.
The referendum question asks voters: "Shall the office of the Recorder of Lake County be eliminated on December 1, 2022, by merging that office's duties and responsibilities into the office of the County Clerk of Lake County?" According to Lake County board members, passage of the referendum will save taxpayers, at least, the recorder's annual base salary of $127,824.
The other countywide race on the ballot is the one for Lake County circuit court clerk, where Waukegan Republican Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez is taking on incumbent Democrat Erin Cartwright Weinstein of Gurnee, who received endorsements from the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Herald's editorial boards.
Seeking a second term in office, Weinstein said a multi-year, multi-agency record management system upgrade will be implemented next year and her office has begun digitizing its records. Rodriguez said she is running to ensure marginalized communities have equal access to justice, improving the office environment and making improved electronic access to court files a priority.
Note: Provisional and late-arriving mail ballots are all not included in the above count. According to the Lake County Clerk's Office, additional vote by mail ballots will be added after 5 p.m. Nov. 10, with late arriving and provisional votes tallies added Nov. 17.
A deluge of mail-in votes cast this election amid the coronavirus pandemic — many of which will not be counted tonight — makes this election unlike any in the past. Officials have two weeks post-election to count all provisional votes.
On the Lake County Board, incumbent Linda Pederson, an Antioch Republican, faces a challenge from Lake Villa Democrat Chase Andrew Thomas in District 1.
In District 2, incumbent Diane Hewitt, a Zion Democrat, faces Zion Republican Paul Christensen.
District 4 will see incumbent Brent Paxton, a Zion Republican, facing a challenge from Zion Democrat Gina Roberts.
In District 7, incumbent Steve Carlson, a Grandwood Park Republican, faces Lake Villa Democrat Carissa Casbon.
In District 12, incumbent Lake Forest Republican Mike Rummel faces Paras Parekh of Highland Park.
Incumbent Sandy Hart, the Lake Bluff Democrat who became the county's first Democratic county board chair following the 2018 election, faces a challenge from Lauren Fleming of Gurnee in District 13.
And in District 16, Round Lake Beach Democrat Terry Wilke, the incumbent, is facing a challenge from Round Lake Republican John Frazier.