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Three Democrats are vying for 2 spots in south Bloomington McLean County Board primary

Brandy Elmore Julie Hahn Natalie Roseman-Mendoza
Courtesy / Staff
McLean County Board Democratic candidates, from left, Brandy Elmore, Julie Hahn and Natalie Roseman-Mendoza.

Residents of south Bloomington will have at least one new representative on the McLean County Board after this year’s election. That process begins next month in the primary, when three Democrats are vying for two spots on the November ballot.

The residents of District 9 in south Bloomington are currently represented on the County Board by two Republicans. Susan Schafer is running for re-election. Lyndsay Bloomfield is too, but after redistricting she'll be District 3.

See map: Which district do I live in?

The three Democrats running in District 9 are Brandy Elmore, Julie Hahn, and Natalie Roseman-Mendoza. The two top vote-getters will advance to the general election.

The Democratic primary has been pretty cordial. In fact, when WGLT asked Hahn and Roseman-Mendoza their thoughts on mental health care issues facing the county, they suggested we talk to Elmore because that’s her issue.

Elmore is a social worker with two master's degrees. She's worked in mental health for years, from preschoolers to seniors, and she has a younger sister with a mental illness. She said it's indeed her top issue if elected.

“Over the past decade, I’ve seen how budget cuts have affected my clients directly,” Elmore said. “I also worked for the (McLean County) Center for Human Services doing screenings for the community, so I was one of the first points of contact for people who were looking for mental health services. And we had to turn away so many and refer out and it was just so heartbreaking to know there’s people who know what they need – and some people don’t even know what they need; they just know they need help – but there’s such a limitation in accessing those services.”

Elmore thinks local leaders can do a better job allocating the local sales tax revenue that's collected specifically for mental health. She says the county’s efforts need to be more preventative, instead of reactive.

“We’re focused very highly on crisis intervention services, as opposed to longstanding, ongoing community-based services,” Elmore said.

Elmore says local agencies are not well funded, and their employees often leave for private practice to make more money.

“Funding is a critical piece of access to mental health care, and that’s what I want to be a part of to improve,” Elmore said.

Natalie Roseman-Mendoza is a paraprofessional who works with high school students with moderate or severe disabilities. She's also an artist.

Roseman-Mendoza says her big issue is healthcare. She says she was troubled by her experiences when her mother had a bad recovery from a surgery and needed to go into a nursing home. She saw healthcare staff stretched to the limit.

“I know it’s a huge beast to tackle, coming out of the pandemic. But if I have a voice, why am I not using it for something good?” she said.

It's a huge beast – and also one that the County Board has only a small role in addressing. WGLT asked her if she could be any more specific about how the County Board could address broader issues in the healthcare system.

“Seeing that I’m still learning, I’m hesitant to say anything that may be completely wrong or impossible. But at this point, I want to look for any ways to make healthcare improvements,” Roseman-Mendoza said. “I’m not big on introducing new taxes, but maybe looking into where some reallocating might be done, to take funds that we already have and putting them in various places to help alleviate pressures instead of just … I’d have to look into it.”

Roseman-Mendoza says she has not closely followed developments at the county-owned nursing home in Normal, which has been a financial drain for years. It now has a new director after being subject to a blue-ribbon advisory panel's review.

Brandy Elmore said she too needed to do more research on the nursing home before weighing in more fully on its future.

Elmore and the third Democrat in the race, Julie Hahn, agreed that one benefit of the county continuing to operate the nursing home was increased accountability.

“At least here, if it’s in the county, you have some form of contact or you could hope to seek a resolution. When those facilities get sold to a corporate level, it makes it hard to seek a resolution,” Hahn said.

Unlike the other two candidates, Julie Hahn has prior experience on an elected board. She was a trustee in the Village of Downs. She moved to Bloomington about 3 years ago.

Hahn says her top priorities are roads and other infrastructure. She said she was a trustee in Downs when the village was putting in its sewer system – a major project that led to some other utility lines occasionally being cut accidentally, she said.

“When those incidents happen, they need to be addressed. You need to have someone come out and fix it. You need to tell your homeowners. You need to give them an ETA. You need to keep on reassuring them, ‘It’s for the better,’” Hahn said.

Republicans hold an 11-to-9 majority on the County Board.

WGLT asked the candidates why they’re running as a Democrat. Hahn’s response was that we needed to work to get past the R's and D's after people's names.

“We as a board need to work together to continue to do that, whether we have the letter ‘R’ or ‘D’ behind us. We need to be able to move forward and not have so much he-said, she-said. We need to keep it on a positive note,” Hahn said.

Roseman-Mendoza’s response as to why she’s running as a Democrat: “Mostly, my moral standings, my less conservative demeanor and beliefs,” she said.

Brandy Elmore said her being a Democrat ties back to her family experience and professional training.

“My professional philosophy is to be an advocate and a voice for individuals who might not have that platform or have that ability to voice their needs and desires,” Elmore said. “But again, that’s a Republican issue too. There are people who are vulnerable on both sides of the aisle. I’m running as a Democrat because my values align more closely with theirs, but ultimately I’m running for McLean County.”

Elmore, Hahn, and Roseman-Mendoza are all running for McLean County Board in south Bloomington's District 9 in the June 28 Democratic primary. Early voting begins Thursday.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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