State Rep. Jack Franks officially will file to withdraw from the 63rd Illinois House race in the next several weeks, Democratic officials said, starting a tight timetable in motion for the Democratic Party of McHenry County to appoint a replacement.
The party in late May caucused in Franks, D-Marengo, to run for McHenry County Board chairman against Republican candidate and County Board member Michael Walkup, R-Crystal Lake. Franks said in his announcement that he would withdraw from the race for the seat that he has held for nine two-year terms.
Although the party already has a candidate in mind, it wants to open the field to other interested applicants, McHenry County Democratic Party Chairman Michael Bissett said. Once Franks withdraws, the party has eight days to meet and pick a replacement, and three days from the selection to file the required paperwork with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
“We have a very good possibility, and honestly, unless someone really, really impressive comes along, that’s going to be the candidate," Bissett said. "But I don’t want to leave anyone out of consideration."
The deadline to challenge Franks' petition passed June 7.
This election is the first in which the County Board chairman will be popularly elected – a 2014 voter referendum ended the long-standing practice of the 24 members of the County Board voting among themselves to choose one. While the contested race gives the Democratic Party a shot of winning the countywide office, it also gives Republicans a shot at reclaiming the 63rd District seat, which Franks first won in 1998 after a nasty GOP primary fight weakened the winning candidate.
Whoever the Democratic Party selects will run against Republican candidate Steven Reick of Woodstock for the 63rd District, which covers northern and western McHenry County and includes all or parts of Marengo, Union, Harvard, Hebron, Johnsburg, Woodstock, McHenry, McCullom Lake, Wonder Lake, Ringwood and Richmond. Because the district lies entirely in McHenry County, the power to choose a candidate rests entirely with the county Democratic Party.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been changed to reflect the fact that McHenry County voters on a previous occasion did elect a Democratic candidate to a countywide office.