HUNTLEY – Village trustee Pam Fender hoped to bring a new era of cooperation in a township plagued by infighting and lawsuits the past four years, after securing the Republican nomination for Grafton Township supervisor Tuesday.
The Huntley Village Board member built a steady lead throughout the night in a race that largely focused on incumbent Supervisor Linda Moore's tenure and dysfunctional relationship with the Grafton trustees.
But Moore's reign as supervisor now sunsets, after Fender garnered 780 votes to defeat attorney Marty Waitzman, who captured 618 votes, and Moore, who collected 598 votes, according to unofficial results from the McHenry County Clerk's office.
"Linda Moore may be gone as a candidate, but it just means that I won one round," Fender said. "I still have another election to go through. All I know is that I won this one."
Only about 2,000 voters in Grafton Township braved heavy snow and treacherous road conditions to help decide the supervisor race. Fender now prepares to face Independent candidate Jim Kearns in the April 9 general election.
Grafton voters also decided contested races for township assessor and highway commissioner. Elsewhere in McHenry County, voters headed to the polls to decide supervisor, trustee and commissioner races in Algonquin, Nunda and Dorr townships.
But in Grafton, Fender said she would usher a sense of compromise and cooperation between all the elected officials in the township, if elected in April. She also would focus her efforts on retooling township services, like the senior bus service.
The infighting that has defined Grafton during the past four years primarily centered on the relationship between Moore and the four other Grafton trustees. Moore's successful effort to block the construction of a multi-million-dollar township hall propelled her to the supervisor spot in 2009, and the effort set an acrimonious tone between Moore and the trustees.
From there, the two parties engaged in lawsuits, racked up large legal fees and strangled township finances. In a decision just before the primary election, Moore and the board had to approve a short-term loan from the road district to keep the township operational into March.
On Tuesday night, Moore conceded and thanked the many volunteers who helped organize her grassroots campaign. She said she did not know whether she would run for township office in the future.
She plans to focus on her family. Moore now moves into lame-duck status as supervisor, until her term expires in May.
Waitzman also conceded and said he wished Fender well. He said he will focus on his Algonquin law firm and his family, while still attending the monthly Grafton meetings.
"I ran a clean campaign, and I am proud of the campaign, but obviously it didn't work out the way I wanted it to," Waitzman said. "I wish Pam [Fender] the best. She has an uphill battle."
The other Grafton races included a surprise win for Al Zielinski, who was township assessor Bill Ottley's first-ever primary challenger. Zielinski secured 1,047 votes to Ottley's 875 votes, according to unofficial numbers from the county clerk's office.
Elected first in 1990, Ottley missed valuable campaign time through most of February after breaking his hip while canvassing neighborhoods. Zielinski now will face Independent Terra Jensen on April 9.
Tom Poznanski coasted to the Republican nomination for township highway commissioner, securing 1,164 votes versus Richard Dvorak's 674 votes. Poznanski now will face Independent Tim Hoeft in the general election.
All the candidates for Grafton trustee, including incumbent Betty Zirk and newcomers Carol WIlliams and Robert Wagner, automatically move on to face a slate of Independent candidates in April.
But Linda Moore's husband, David Moore, secured enough votes – 20 – as write-in candidate to also move on to the general election in the trustee race.