Tuesday's election: Few contests but taxing questions abound

Originally Posted Online: March 15, 2014, 6:15 pm
Last Updated: March 15, 2014, 6:33 pm
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By Eric Timmons, etimmons@qconline.com

Voters will settle few contests but face some taxing questions when they head to the polls for Tuesday's primary election. Turnout is expected to be light.

The top race is the four-way Republican gubernatorial primary, in which two state senators, the state treasurer and a venture-capitalist are vying for a chance to take on Gov. Pat Quinn in the general election.

The few down-ballot contests include a handful in the Quad-Cities region.

In Mercer County, three Democrats and two Republicans are contesting primaries for sheriff. In Rock Island County, incumbent county clerk Karen Kinney is being challenged on the Democratic ballot by Glen Evans, and in Henry County, Republicans Tim Wells and Dwayne Anderson are vying for the county treasurer's nomination.

The Mercer County sheriff candidates, who seek to replace recently retired Tom Thompson,
are Republicans Chris DeFrieze and George Howard and Democrats Caryn Brokaw, David Staley and Jeff Dale.

Tax hike questions

There also are a plethora of referendums on tax increases.

Voters in Rock Island and Whiteside counties both are being asked to support 1 percent sales tax increases to support school building and renovation projects.

Mercer and Henry counties are among 18 counties in Illinois that already have the school facilities tax, which is allowed under a 2007 law.

A lack of growth in property tax revenue and reductions in state funding have produced the trend that has seen school districts across the state campaign for the tax.

"Certainly those are the driving factors behind all of this," said Riverdale school district superintendent Ron Jacobs.

The schools facilities tax in Rock Island County would bring in an estimated $11.5 million annually and would be divided among districts based on enrollment. Schools in Whiteside County would get $4 million.

Meanwhile, voters in the Rockridge School District are being asked on the primary ballot to support a $15 million bond issue to fund construction of a new elementary school in Edgington.

Taxes for public safety

State cutbacks and the after-effects of the recession that hit home values and thus property tax revenue also are behind the push for sales tax increases to support public safety in Henry and Rock Island counties.

In both counties, the sheriff's departments consume the biggest piece of the county-government budget pie.

Public safety expenses are rising, but revenue is flat or falling, which has pushed county boards to ask for higher sales taxes.

Rock Island County is seeking a half-percent sales tax bump for public safety to generate an estimated $3.7 million per year. Henry County is seeking a quarter-percent to bring in about $1.7 million annually.

In both counties, the sheriffs who stand to benefit from the new revenue have declined to throw their weight behind the campaigns for the tax increases.

Rock Island County Sheriff Jeff Boyd, a Democrat, and Henry County Sheriff Jim Padilla, a Republican, both fear the money will end up subsidizing other county departments rather than their own.

Who will take on Gov. Quinn?

Republicans who turn out on Tuesday will vote in a hotly contested gubernatorial primary.

The candidates are state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, state treasurer Dan Rutherford and venture capitalist Bruce Rauner.

The Rock Island County Republican Party is almost evenly divided into camps that support each of the four candidates, said the party's vice chairman Bill Long.

Mr. Long said he's backing Mr. Rauner because the Chicago businessman comes from outside a political system he views as corrupt.

The Rock Island County Coordinator for Mr. Rutherford's campaign is South Rock Island Township Assessor Susie Carpentier.

Mr. Rutherford's campaign has been wounded by allegations of sexual harassment brought against him by a former employee.

Ms. Carpentier believes Mr. Rutherford will be exonerated but said she's not sure who will come out on top in the primary for governor.

"Everybody has a chance with it being a four-way race," she said.

On the Democratic ballot, Gov. Quinn is expected to easily overcome opposition from Chicago activist Tio Hardiman.

Low turnout likely

Turnout usually is very low for off-year primary elections, and there's little evidence, in Rock Island County at least, to suggest this year will be any different.

By lunchtime Friday, 2,422 early or absentee ballots had been cast, according to the Rock Island County Clerk's office, out of a total of about 91,000 registered voters.

The total includes 1,339 Democratic ballots, 949 Republicans and 138 nonpartisan "question only" ballots. The question only ballots are for those who only want to vote on the referendum questions.

Local candidates for several state and federal offices are unopposed in the primary election. They include U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline. She'll face former Republican Congressman Bobby Shilling, who is unopposed in his primary, in the November general election.


Local events heading

  Today is Tuesday, Sept 2, the 245th day of 2014. There are 120 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: It is estimated that 300,000 people attended the recent Democratic convention in Chicago when Gen. George B. McClellan of New Jersey was nominated as a candidate for president of the United States.
1889 — 125 years ago: Alderman Frank Ill, Winslow Howard and Captain J.M. Montgomery returned from Milwaukee, where they attended the national Grand Army of the Republic encampment.
1914 — 100 years ago: Three members of the Rock Island YMCA accepted positions as physical directors of other associations. Albert Cook went to Kewanee, C.D. Curtis to Canton and Willis Woods to Leavenworth, Kan.
1939 — 75 years ago: Former President Herbert Hoover appealed for national support of President F.D. Roosevelt and Congress in every effort to keep the United States out of war.
1964 — 50 years ago: The Rock Island Junior chamber pf Commerce has received answers to about 65 % of the 600 questionnaires mailed out recently in a "Community Attitude Survey" to analyze sentiments of citizens towards their city's various recreational, educational, and civic service programs.
1989 — 25 years ago: The two thunderstorms passing through the Quad Cities last night and early today left some area residents reaching for their flashlights.

(More History)