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A few close races for McHenry County Board seats

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While McHenry County continues to count absentee ballots, results from Tuesday’s election indicate that two incumbents on the McHenry County Board could join the seven who are not returning next month.

Republican Robert Bless and Democrat Kathleen Bergan Schmidt trailed in their bids for another term on the County Board, according to unofficial vote totals. Tuesday’s results could mean that one-third of the new County Board that will be seated in December will be freshmen.

Some of the races were extremely close, and ballots that continue to trickle in could push some lagging candidates ahead.

As it is, the Democratic Party looks set to maintain its two-seat minority on the 24-member board. While Bergan Schmidt trailed her closest Republican opponent by a thousand votes, Nick Chirikos led in the race against Bless, who has been dogged by allegations of impropriety as an attorney.

Democratic candidate Paula Yensen may have made history Tuesday as the first to win re-election to the County Board. McHenry County voters in 1976 and 2006 elected Democrats to the County Board, but none succeeded in winning re-election.

All 24 seats were up for election this year because of once-in-a-decade redistricting after the 2010 U.S. Census. The remap did not put any incumbents in new districts.

District 1: Chirikos led Bless by 303 votes Tuesday night, meaning uncounted ballots could decide the race. The three other Republicans in the race easily led the pack. Republican incumbent Anna May Miller took the largest chunk of the votes with 11,547. Republican incumbents Robert Nowak and Yvonne Barnes followed closely with 11,388 and 10,856 votes, respectively. Barnes was elected in 2006, but lost her bid for a second term in the 2010 primary to Nowak. Republican Marc Munaretto, of Algonquin, did not seek re-election.

District 1 covers southern Algonquin and southeast Grafton townships, including all or parts of Cary, Fox River Grove, Algonquin and Lake in the Hills.

District 2: While not at the top of the pile, County Board Chairman Ken Koehler looked set to take the fourth seat representing District 2. He led by 488 votes, a significant margin but one that could still be upset by uncounted absentee ballots. Republican incumbent Donna Kurtz took home the most votes, 11,496 or 20.34 percent of the vote. She was followed by fellow Republican incumbent James Heisler and newcomer Carolyn Schofield, who brought in 9,768 and 9,648 votes, respectively. The two Democratic challengers – James Kennedy and Jim Roden – trailed with 8,702 and 7,710 votes. Republican Scott Breeden, of Lakewood, did not seek re-election. Kennedy, of Lake in the Hills, was elected in 2006 but lost in 2010. He represented District 5, but redistricting put him in District 2.

District 2 covers northwest Algonquin and far northeastern Grafton townships, including parts of Crystal Lake, Lake in the Hills and Lakewood.

District 3: With more than a thousand votes separating the Republican candidates from a Democratic challenger, Republicans handily dominated the District 3 race.

Three of the Republicans are newcomers. They are Michael Walkup, Joe Gottemoller and Mary McClellan. Republican incumbent Nick Provenano appeared set to keep his seat. Bergan Schmidt was one of two Democrats on the board. District 3 lost the most incumbents. Republican Mary Donner, of Crystal Lake, lost by 49 votes in the primary. Fellow Republican Barbara Wheeler, also of Crystal Lake, won unopposed Tuesday evening in her run for the Illinois House of Representatives.

District 3 covers Nunda Township and slivers of McHenry and Algonquin townships, including parts of Crystal Lake, McHenry, Prairie Grove, Oakwood Hills and Bull Valley.

District 4: Four Republicans led easily in four spots representing District 4. Republican incumbents John Hammerand, Sue Draffkorn and Sandra Fay Salgado are likely to be joined by newcomer Robert Martens Sr. on the new County Board. Democratic candidate Mary Margaret Maule lagged her closest Republican counterpart, Martens, by almost a thousand votes. Republican Peter Merkel, of McHenry, did not seek re-election. District 4 covers the county’s northeast corner and includes all or parts of Richmond, Spring Grove, Johnsburg, McCullom Lake, McHenry, Wonder Lake and Bull Valley.

District 5: While Democratic incumbent Paula Yensen was holding onto her seat by a narrow margin Tuesday evening, it was a newcomer, Republican Michael Skala, who took home the most votes.

Yensen led her closest challenger, Republican Michael Rein, by 291 votes. Two other incumbents – Tina Hill and John Jung, both Republicans – also looked set to keep their seats. The final candidate, Frank Wedig of the Green Party, trailed with about half of the votes garnered by other candidates. Hill has publicly announced that she intends to run next month for the board chairman seat that Koehler has held since 2004. The board’s 24 members, not the public, elect the chairman to a two-year term after each November election. Republican Virginia Peschke, of Bull Valley, lost by 28 votes in the primary. First elected in 1990, she is the present board’s longest-serving member.

District 5 covers Dorr Township, central Grafton Township and one precinct of Greenwood Township, covering much of Woodstock, Lakewood and Huntley, and part of Lake in the Hills.

District 6: Four Republicans fended off challenges from three Democrats and, in a rarity for County Board, an Independent. Newcomer Michele Aavang won the most votes with 10,716 Tuesday evening, followed by incumbents Diane Evertsen, Mary McCann and Ersel Schuster. They beat Democratic challengers Scott Summers, Jayant Kadakia and Ryan Heuser, and Independent Larry Smith, who received 8,015, more votes than two of the Democratic candidates received. Schuster’s re-election snapped an unusual losing streak – she has been elected to the board three times, but never to consecutive terms.

District 6 covers all or part of 11 townships making up the county’s rural western half, which includes Harvard, Marengo, Hebron and Union.

Republican Randy Donley, of Union, did not seek re-election.

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