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McLean County GOP Chair: 'Bullies' Influencing Local Campaigns

Connie Beard
Eric Stock
McLean County Republican Party Chairwoman Connie Beard spoke with reporters at a Wednesday news conference at the county GOP's headquarters in Bloomington.

The head of the McLean County Republican Party is coming to the county clerk's defense in what's become a bitter re-election battle.

Connie Beard is reiterating her call that Kathy Michael's Democratic opponent, Nikita Richards, apologize for accusing Michael of breaking the law when she delayed early voting. She also defended the two-term incumbent in the ethics complaint that was filed against her.

At a news conference Wednesday at the McLean County GOP headquarters in Bloomington, Beard said Democrats have become "bullies" in wanting to take away freedoms, including freedom of thought and due process.

"These kinds of freedoms are threatened by a violent segment of the population across the nation."

“These kinds of freedoms are threatened by a violent segment of the population across the nation,” Beard said. “I truly am praying fervently that that attitude is not what we are seeing and demonstrated in our own county.”

Beard said she believed that Michael did not intentionally damage the county-owned laptop that become the subject of a Freedom of Information request.

The clerk’s director of elections, Denise Cesario, said Monday during a County Ethics Committee hearing that Michael left the laptop out on the deck at her home when a sudden rainstorm hit, damaging the computer.

Beard said Michael took the computer to Best Buy rather than the county’s own Information Technologies department to expedite repairs on a weekend.

“If she had waited until Monday, there would have been all kinds of accusations about what might have happened while she was waiting to get it fixed,” Michael said. “It’s not a win-win situation.”

McLean County Democrats claim Michael was trying to conceal evidence of her doing political activities on county equipment. The ethics committee voted 3-0 Monday to send that matter to the McLean County state’s attorney for review. State’s Attorney Don Knapp said he will likely forward the case to the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor’s office.

Cesario told ethics commissioners on Monday clerk’s staff has had to spend time addressing “lies” being spread on social media against Michael and the clerk’s office.

Beard said she believed that referred to a “countless number” of Freedom of Information Act requests that have been filed by supporters of Richards with “nothing coming of it.”

When asked why Michael hasn’t specifically addressed the allegations against her, Beard said Michael is waiting for Richards to “come to her senses” and apologize.

Richards is also the subject of an ethics complaint filed against her as a City of Bloomington human resources officer. City spokeswoman Nora Dukowitz said the city is coordinating an independent review of the matter.

Beard said it's a disservice to the voters that neither of the ethics complaints against Michael or Richards may be resolved before election day.

Beard's comments come as her party looks to fend off energized local Democrats on Nov. 6. Michael is one of their top targets.

Michael and Richards are scheduled to appear at a GLT debate Thursday night.

Election Referendum

The GOP also plans to circulate campaign literature throughout Bloomington this month urging voters to approve a ballot question on dissolving the nonpartisan Bloomington Election Commission, a move that would essentially turn over management of the city’s elections to the McLean County clerk.

Supporters say the move will save money while holding election officers directly accountable to the voters. Critics say they prefer a nonpartisan administrator for local elections.

“Any time any county clerk is not handling this properly, you can vote her out,” Beard said.

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