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 Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.

(More History)