To Let People Vote in Township Primaries or Not – Part 2

Yesterday, the scene was set for explaining why Algonquin Township has had primary elections instead of caucuses as the method of selecting candidates for township office since the mid-1970’s.

It all started when incumbent Republican Township Assessor Forrest Hare was defeated by 3 votes in a 3000-ballot township caucus, but denied a recount by the majority of precinct committeemen on the township committeemen who wanted the young reformer out of office.

That outraged Forrest’s supporters, among whom was WIVS radio station owner Mal Bellairs.

Forrest decided to run as a write-in candidate.

You know that write-ins very, very rarely are victorious.

Every weekday morning from the caucus to the general election, Mal put the heat on the local Republican Party in support of Forrest’s candidacy.

I remember driving down Route 47 on the way to Springfield and wishing I could hear his whole program that was disappearing between Mazon and Dwight.

The short of it was that Forrest beat the Establishment candidate about 2-1. About 3,500 people voted and Hare got about 2,000.

After Forrest won, I was over in the state senate chamber for something or other and my high school classmate, then state senator, Jack Schaffer approached me in the back of the Republican side. He suggested that we had to do something to make sure such a fight never happened again. He had backed the teacher.

We decided that township central committees should have the right to have a primary election governed by state law, rather than the township central committee. And, with Republicans in control of both the Senate and the House, we passed such a law.

Since then, Algonquin Township has always opted for a primary election. I remember Nunda Township’s having followed suit at least once.

Contention of township office, a not bad paying set of jobs, has been minimal except when a public official retires or dies. Active primary contests resulted when Township Road Commissioner Del Miller died and when Township Supervisor Tom Schober died.

An upset occurred when Fox River Grove True Value hardware store co-owner John Opatrny and a friend ran as a team for township trustee. They sent out a joint post card and won.

Right now Algonquin Township’s Republican precinct committeemen are being polled to see whether they support a caucus or a primary election.

I’ve cast my vote for a primary.

I think voters ought to have a direct say in who is on the ballot for township office.


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