More Democrats seeking seats on Sangamon County Board

Nine candidates are challenging Republican incumbents

click to enlarge More Democrats seeking seats on Sangamon County Board
PHOTO COURTESY MARC AYERS
Democrat Marc Ayers is challenging incumbent Linda Fulgenzi for a Sangamon County board seat in District 12, the first time she's had an opponent since joining the board in 2007.

Democrats hope to make inroads on the Sangamon County Board by fielding nine candidates who are challenging Republican incumbents in the Nov. 8 general election.

It's the highest number of challengers to GOP power on the board in the past 20 years, according to Bill Houlihan, Sangamon County Democratic chairman.

"I feel good about it," he said. "All these folks have a chance to win. These candidates have spent a lot of time on the weekends knocking on doors."

Incumbent Linda Fulgenzi, a Leland Grove resident, is facing a Democratic challenger in District 12 for the first time since she joined the board in 2007. "We as Republicans have never been challenged by Democrats as we are now," she said.

Sangamon County Board Chairman Andy Van Meter, a Springfield Republican, said he is optimistic his party will maintain majority control of the board, which Republicans have dominated for more than three decades.

"I think we have an excellent record of delivering top-notch services and carefully spending the taxpayers' dollars," he told Illinois Times.

Republicans currently hold 22 of the board's 29 seats, each elected by district. The board would flip to Democratic control in the unlikely event that eight or all nine Democratic challengers defeat Republican incumbents.

The part-time jobs pay $9,319 per year and represent districts that are home to about 6,700 people apiece.

All seats are up for election this year after redistricting in the wake of the 2020 Ccensus; after that, board members will serve either two- or four-year terms.

The board controls the purse strings for county government, which operates with a budget between $127 million and $160 million and includes the sheriff's department, county jail, county health department, state's attorney, coroner, highway department, animal control center and a community action agency that assists the needy.

Van Meter, who has served on the board almost 30 years, faces Democratic challenger Maureen Bommarito in District 24.

Other incumbents facing challengers include: Republican Paul Truax vs. Democrat Chrisandra Brown in District 10; Fulgenzi vs. Democrat Marc Ayers in District 12; Republican Brad Miller vs. Democrat Mikaelah Curry in District 13; Republican Annette Fulgenzi vs. Democrat Aaron Tebrinke in District 17; Republican Alice Ramey vs. Democrat Vera Small in District 19; Republican George Preckwinkle vs. Democrat Krishna Brahmamdam in District 25; Republican John O'Neill vs. Democrat Rusty Jones in District 26; and Republican Abe Forsyth vs. Democrat Jon Hackler in District 27.

Houlihan, a former staff member for Illinois Senate Democrats and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, attributed the increased number of Democratic challengers to ongoing candidate recruitment efforts by the party that intensified under former county Democratic chair Doris Turner, now a state senator, and continued with Houlihan at the helm.

While residents in rural areas of the county tend to vote Republican, that's not always the case in Springfield neighborhoods, Houlihan said. "Springfield is trending bluer than it has in many years," he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court's June 24 decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that protected access to abortion has energized female volunteers and voters, benefiting the Democratic Party nationally and locally, Houlihan said.

Ayers, 37, a Springfield resident who is Illinois director for the Humane Society of the United States, a lobbyist and Democratic activist, said he wants to get on the board to improve the animal-control center and promote renewable energy and transparency.

This is his first try at elected office. He said he is confident of his chances of beating Fulgenzi for a two-year term after knocking on doors throughout the district, which has trended Democratic and includes parts of Springfield's west side, Jerome and Leland Grove. He said he has surpassed Fulgenzi in political fundraising.

Fulgenzi, a former grade-school teacher and former Leland Grove City Council member who wouldn't give her age, helps her husband and son run a construction and remodeling business. She said she has a "good feeling" about her chances.

Fulgenzi said she is vying for another term because "there are things that aren't finished that I have started." Fulgenzi said she has taken part in county committees planning for a recently announced multimillion-dollar upgrade of the health department building to create a "one-stop shop" for public health services, community assistance and job training.

She also wants to continue to help guide $127 million in work that includes establishing a central transportation center and making improvements at the county building.

Brahmamdam, 58, is a retired information technology manager for the state and naturalized U.S. citizen from India who has lived in Springfield more than 30 years. This is his first attempt at elected office. He said he's not afraid of challenging Preckwinkle, an incumbent who first was elected to the board in 2007.

"We need new thoughts on the board," Brahmamdam said. "The sky's the limit in the United States of America."

Preckwinkle co-owns 13 Ace Hardware stores in central Illinois – including two in Springfield and one in Chatham – and lives in Leland Grove with his wife, Lynda.

Preckwinkle, 66, who was born and raised in Springfield, said he is seeking another term on the board because he wants to continue to ensure county government operates with a balanced budget and fiscal responsibility.

“The county has been the quiet government that really works for the people,” he said.

About The Author

Dean Olsen

Dean Olsen is a senior staff writer for Illinois Times. He can be reached at:
dolsen@illinoistimes.com, 217-679-7810 or @DeanOlsenIT.

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