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McLean County GOP chair disappointed by low turnout in Illinois primary election

Man seated at table with right hand on a computer
Emily Bollinger
McLean County Republican Party chair Dennis Grundler watches the election returns on Tuesday night during a watch party in Bloomington.

The leader of the McLean County Republican Party says he was surprised and disappointed by the primary election results.

For one, Dennis Grundler of Downs was disappointed by the 17% voter turnout in McLean County, far lower than recent primary elections in presidential years. There were also fewer contested races on the ballot, especially among Democrats.

Grundler also lost in his bid for McLean County Board to a political newcomer, Mike O'Neil.

Grundler questioned O'Neil's conservative credentials, but said O'Neil heavily outspent him.

George Wendt, a former county GOP chair who has served 14 years on the County Board, lost his primary race to farmer Brian Loeffler.

Grundler said he plans to hold the two newcomers accountable for upholding conservative values if they get elected to the board in the fall.

Grundler said he's believes there's too much division within the Republican party, as some have strayed from fiscal conservatism. He theorized that's why the Republican Party has lost its majority in county government.

“If you can’t get together, that’s why we are a 10-10 (Republican-Democrat) board now instead of a 16-4 (Republican majority),” Grundler said.

When asked why the fiscal hawk Wendt would have lost his primary, Grundler suggested money may have been a factor.

“I don’t know if it was someone looking for a change, because George voted conservative,” Grundler said.

Grundler now turns his attention to the general election, where the top of the ticket may impact down-ballot races such as County Board, where the two parties are trying to break their deadlock.

Grundler said it’s hard to tell how a rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump may impact county races. He said he hopes any Republicans disenchanted with Trump won’t skip the election entirely.

“If they are using that as an excuse (not to vote), I’m calling them out on that,” he said. “A no vote is a vote.”

In 2020, Biden was only the second Democratic presidential candidate to win McLean County since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 (Barack Obama won McLean County in 2008).

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.