Lake County politics has been rocked to the core this month by the abrupt resignation of State Rep. Nick Sauer, R-Lake Barrington, and the announcement by Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor that he is dropping out of his re-election campaign after earlier disclosing that he was suffering from drug addiction.
Sauer is accused of using nude photos of an ex-girlfriend to “catfish” men on the internet. And Lawlor faced removal from the ballot by the state Board of Elections for unpaid fines leveled against his campaign committee. The county is also investigating whether he improperly used his government credit card.
Both men are Republicans, which means GOP leaders are scrambling to find last-minute ballot replacements.
Lake County Republican Party Chairman Mark Shaw is being forced to navigate pressures on all sides while trying to choose replacements who won’t anger too many factions.
Rauner is reportedly backing Barrington Village President Karen Darch to replace Sauer. Darch was president of the Illinois Municipal League in 2017, so she has some state experience. She’s also done battle with her local unions, which is one reason I’m told why Rauner likes her so much.
But insurgent Republican Dan Proft tipped his hand in the House seat replacement sweepstakes by publishing a story in one of his 40 newspapers (the Lake County Gazette) about how Darch has “increased property taxes collected by the village by more than one-third since 2010.” Proft backed Rep. Jeanne Ives against Rauner in the primary and the two men are avowed enemies.
Some top House Republicans would like to see a woman named to the Sauer seat. Darch would fit that bill, but so would Helene Walsh, the wife of former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh who, like Proft, hosts a conservative radio talk show.
Another drama is also playing out in the county. As I write this, Rep. Sam Yingling’s SB2544 is sitting on Rauner’s desk.
Yingling, D-Grayslake, made the unusual move of running cable TV ads supporting his legislation in late June. The bill would allow Lake County voters to decide whether to elect the county assessor. The position is currently appointed by the county board chairman, the soon to be departing Aaron Lawlor.
Julie Simpson, a Democrat who was running against Lawlor until he dropped out, also ran an ad touting the legislation, which passed both chambers with strong veto-proof majorities. And Yingling gathered 1,000 petition signatures favoring the legislation. Yingling represents a district that was once represented by a Republican, so he is a perennial target. The issue has helped him stay visible throughout the summer.
The governor has until late August to act on the bill.
The beauty of politics is how fast things can change. And nobody could’ve predicted that Lake County would be at the center of so many controversies a month ago.