McLean County Board headed toward 10-10 split between Republicans and Democrats
The McLean County Board appears headed toward an even 10-10 split between Republicans and Democrats — again.
All 20 board members in 10 districts were up for election this year because of redistricting. Both major parties fielded more candidates for the county board than they did after the last redistricting 10 years ago. Democrats had 15 office-seekers. Republicans had 19 on the ballot.
With preliminary results as of midnight, 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats appeared headed to victory. That would maintain the current split on the County Board. Half of the new board members will get four-year terms and the other half will get two years. A post-election lottery will determine whether a candidate gets a two- or four-year term.
It’s unclear how the county board will select a chair and appoint committee chairs. Current chair John McIntyre was re-elected Tuesday.
Democrats have never held a majority on the McLean County Board. As recently as 2018, Republicans held a 15-to-5 majority. It's a 10-10 split now, following Democratic gains in recent elections and, most recently, member Josh Barnett switching parties (from GOP to Democrat).
The County Board controls a $129 million budget for county government, which includes the courthouse and jail, county-owned nursing home, and several mental and behavioral health initiatives.
Republicans who gathered at the DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Room in Bloomington on Tuesday night equated conservative control of a county with fiscal responsibility.
“It’s just a historical thing. It seems that when Republicans have control, they can keep the political division financially in good shape,” said county board member George Wendt, who was re-elected to another term representing District 3.
Most agreed that other issues that grab national attention aren’t as important at this level.
“We don’t have too much to do with some of the other things that are controversial,” Wendt said.
Republican Catherine Metsker, who also won re-election, in District 1, said she wants what’s best for the county no matter who wins.
“We will make the best decisions and do our best to do what’s good for the entire county, and that’s what we have to do as elected officials is work together,” Metsker said.
District 4 Democratic victor Jim Rogal told WGLT on Tuesday he was surprised that the "numbers were as low as they were" for himself and fellow candidate Krystle Able, who also secured a seat in the district that covers much of north Normal.
Rogal and Able won over Republicans Jerry Klinkner and Steve Harsh. Both men had previously declined to interview with WGLT about their candidacies.
"Given that our opponents didn't really talk to people and didn't talk to us, I was a little shocked," Rogal said. "We talked to voters, we communicated with voters, we were open to voters every step of the way — and our opponents were not. And yet they still did fairly well, (while) pushing disinformation and lies about the county board."
Rogal, who had been on the county board via an appointment last year, said there are currently no procedural rules on the books regarding what happens if the board is tied between both parties.
"We're 10-10 now, but it happened after we'd already elected a chairman," he said. "Going forward, it's going to be interesting to see the chess game that plays out, because there's nothing in county statute to address a tie on the county board for votes, for electing a chairman, for anything like that. If nothing else, that eventually needs to be addressed."
McLean County Democrats chair Patrick Cortesi noted that forthcoming challenge, but added that, as far as the business of county government goes, it's possible not much will change given the nature of what the board does.
"The county board is kind of a service industry — they're there to serve the clientele of the people in the county and no matter who has control of that board, I don't think that will change very much," he said. "There's still basic needs that they need to fulfill and I think everybody who ends up on this board from either side will still want to do that."
Incumbent Republican Kathy Michael will serve a fourth term after defeating Democratic challenger Laura McBurney. Michael was working elections and not available for comment Tuesday night.
Michael was leading with 60% of the vote over McBurney.
Incumbent Republican Treasurer Rebecca McNeil won handily over challenger Charles Sila, a Libertarian. McNeil was leading with 76% of the vote.
McNeil started with Treasurer’s office in 1999 as a payroll accountant and became Assistant County Treasurer in 2001. She was appointed to serve as County Treasurer in 2003. She was elected in 2004 and then re-elected in 2006, 2010, and 2014 and 2018.
Sila is an accountant who lives in Normal. No Democrat sought the office.