JONESBORO — The Union County Democratic Party has filed a motion to dismiss its lawsuit against the county chairman over his pick to fill the vacant state’s attorney position, according to a statement from the party chair.
The Union County Democratic Party’s legal challenge filed late last month raised questions about the party affiliation of the county's chosen replacement for Tyler Edmonds, who left the post to accept a judgeship. It sought to prevent the county from swearing in Daniel Klingemann, claiming he was not a Democrat.
State law dictates that when counties are filling vacant posts, they are to select someone of the same political party as the elected official exiting the position. Edmonds ran for the seat as a Democrat.
A hearing was held on the matter Aug. 29, at which time Judge William Thurston directed the parties to return to the court on Sept. 13 while indicating his desire to see the situation quickly resolved.
In a statement to The Southern on Thursday, Union County Democratic Party Chair Teresa Vincent said that the county’s legal counsel has since provided her the necessary documentation establishing Klingemann’s affiliation to the Democratic Party.
Klingemann, a private attorney in Marion who previously worked as an assistant state’s attorney with Edmonds, had not voted in primary elections, and was not active in party politics. The board confirmed his appointment by a 3-2 vote along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor of his confirmation and Democrats against.
Union County Board Chairman Max Miller previously said that Klingemann stated to him during the interview process that he was a Democrat, which he said satisfied the party affiliation requirement under the law.
But Vincent argued that Klingemann’s record was not sufficient to establish him as a Democrat. She pointed to a section of the law that specifically speaks to the replacement of state senators and representatives and defines party affiliation as follows: A person is a member of a party for 23 months after signing a petition for a candidate’s partisan candidacy for office, signing a petition joining a particular party, pulling a partisan primary ballot, running for partisan office or otherwise holding a partisan position such as state central committeeperson.
In a statement Thursday provided to The Southern, Vincent said she asked Miller twice last month — once in person, and once in writing — to provide proof that Klingemann was a Democrat based on the above criteria.
On Aug. 29, Vincent said Miller’s legal counsel provided her a copy of a petition that Klingemann had signed in 2017 for a Democratic judicial candidate.
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“I only wish that Mr. Miller had worked with me and provided this information prior to my forced filing of the enforcement action,” Vincent said in her prepared statement. “His lack of cooperation caused both sides to needlessly incur expenses and waste time and taxpayer money.
“Because Mr. Miller has belatedly complied with the law and provided evidence that Mr. Klingemann is a member of the Democratic Party, I instructed my counsel to dismiss the Union County action this afternoon.”
The county filed a response to the motion, saying it agreed to the terms of dismissal with both parties accepting their own legal fees. But it also stated that the party’s motion contained factual inaccuracies, and called the party’s legal action “frivolous.” The county maintained that Klingemann’s verbal commitment to Miller that he’s a Democrat satisfied the requirements of the law. The county further noted that it provided a copy of the petition Klingemann had signed in 2017 as soon as it was made available, even though it didn't believe that was necessary.
Klingemann also signed an affidavit, under oath, on Aug. 26, declaring that he was a Democrat, the county’s response said.
“In a blatant attempt to cast aspersions on Chairman Miller and Union County, the motion to dismiss ... misrepresented the law and the facts and needlessly interjected politics into these proceedings,” the county’s response said.
Miller previously said he chose Klingemann because of his past experience working with Edmonds, and the county’s need to have someone step into the role who could quickly acclimate to the job. A recent spate of turnover has resulted in backlogged cases and an unusually high jail bill, he has said. “This ludicrous lawsuit has cost the taxpayers of Union County thousands of dollars,” Miller said in a separate statement he provided The Southern on Thursday.
For his part, Klingemann said Thursday that he’s glad the matter has been settled. He declined further comment on the legal action. “I’m incredibly excited for the opportunity,” he said. “It’s a place I quickly fell in love with.” Klingemann worked at the office from 2014 to 2017, last serving as an assistant state’s attorney under Edmonds. He said there’s no question that he’s a Democrat. “I assumed that had been declared and known,” he said. Klingemann said he doesn’t vote in primaries because he doesn’t agree with the way Illinois’ primary system works.
Vincent said that she and the party welcome Klingemann to the post and “wish him the best in filling the vital office of Union County State’s Attorney.”
But she continued to express frustration with Miller and the county board. In a separate statement, Vincent called it “procedure and protocol” for the county board chair to take the recommendation of the respective county party officials when it comes to filling positions vacated by a Republican or Democrat.
She said that when there were two recent openings on the board created by Republicans stepping down, the then-chair took the recommendations of the Republican Party in filling those seats. “However, this is not an issue which can be won in the courts,” she said.
In her role as party chair, Vincent had nominated Tyler Dihle, a private attorney in Marion, and a Williamson County Democratic Party precinct committeeman. The state’s attorney’s seat will be up for election again next year. Klingemann said he hasn’t decided whether he will run, but is considering it.