Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Robert Miller’s 24-year reign, and his family’s half-century lock on the office, came to an end with challenger Andrew Gasser’s upset victory in Tuesday’s Republican primary.
Gasser narrowly defeated Miller, receiving 51.3 percent of the vote to 48.6 percent, separated by 145 votes, according to unofficial vote totals. It was not the only surprise that voters in the three townships that held primaries for township offices dealt out.
Gasser was able to overcome Miller’s firm backing from much of the local GOP establishment and accusations of a lack of knowledge of road work, keeping attention on his repeated charges of Miller’s nepotism in department hiring. Gasser also released a last-minute video allegedly showing former department employees shooting firearms into a car almost a decade ago, calling it an indictment of Miller’s leadership.
“It wasn't my victory. It really was a victory for the silent majority," Gasser said. "This isn't about me at all. It’s all about the people. They spoke very loudly, very clearly and very decisively, and now it's up to those who won tonight to govern."
The winners of the contested races in Algonquin, Grafton and Nunda townships will advance to the April 4 election in which voters countywide will elect their representatives to a myriad of local units of government. Almost all will run unopposed.
The highway department race, as well as opposing factions down ticket in Algonquin and Nunda townships, drove up turnout from the 2013 township primary. About 7.2 percent of McHenry County voters cast ballots, up from the 4 percent in the 2013 GOP primaries, which included four townships.
Townships under Illinois government have three statutory responsibilities – to assess property, maintain township roads and distribute general assistance. Pressure has been mounting for state lawmakers to make it easier for counties to either consolidate or eliminate them.
Voters decided that Village Clerk Charles Lutzow Jr. should succeed Dianne Klemm as supervisor – he defeated Crystal Lake City Council member Ellen Brady Mueller with 52.5 percent of the vote to 47.2 percent.
Klemm’s decision not to seek a fifth term opened up down-ballot offices.
Karen Lukasik defeated Trustee Melissa Sanchez-Fisher in a bid to replace Lutzow as clerk. Lukasik received 55.8 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Sanchez-Fisher.
Incumbent Trustee Dan Shea advances to the April 4 election with 16.4 percent of the vote, as do newcomers Melissa Victor with 15.7 percent, David Chapman with 15.5 percent of the vote and Rachael Lawrence with 15.2 percent. Incumbent Russell Cardelli lost his re-election bid, and challengers Scott Taillet and Terence Ferenc likewise came up short.
Richard Alexander ran unopposed to succeed Assessor Bob Kunz, who is retiring after 40 years of holding the office.
Incumbent Supervisor Lee Jennings narrowly won a second term in office, fending off a challenge from township GOP Treasurer Catherine Williams by only 24 votes. Jennings received 39.8 percent of the vote to 38.7 percent for Jennings – McHenry County Board member Michael Walkup came in a distant third with 21.2 percent.
“Iron” Mike Lesperance won re-election to a second term, defeating a challenge from Eric Dowd, a member of the county regional school board. Lesperance won 52.5 percent of the vote, compared with 47.4 percent for Dowd.
Assessor Mark Dzemske, who was appointed last year after Dennis Jagla retired, defeated challenger Justin Franzke by a margin of 51.7 percent to 48.1 percent.
Challengers Tim Parrish and Robert Parrish, who ran on the slate For a Better Nunda, advance to the April 4 race with 16.3 percent and 16.2 percent of the vote. Incumbents Karen Tynis and Ed Dvorak also won with 15.1 percent and 14.7 percent of the vote. Incumbent Mike Shorten, who also ran on the slate, lost his re-election bid, as did incumbent William Boltz and newcomer Debra Heath.
Joni Smith ran unopposed for township clerk.
Township voters chose a political newcomer over a township trustee for the role of supervisor.
Eric Ruth, vice president of Woodstock-based Alliance Contractors Inc., handily defeated Trustee James Holtorf, 68.6 percent to 31 percent. Ruth has never held political office.
Both men ran to succeed outgoing Supervisor James Kearns, who was elected last November to the County Board.
Kathleen Watson defeated Dina Frigo for the office of township clerk by a similarly lopsided margin of 61.8 percent to 38.1 percent. Clerk Kathryn Hurley did not seek re-election.
Incumbent Highway Commissioner Tom Poznanski won re-election, fending off challenges from candidates Steven Stoltzman and Frank Kearns. Poznanski won 46.5 percent of the vote to 39.2 percent for Kearns and 13.9 percent for Stoltzman.
The primary for trustees was uncontested, with three candidates running for four open seats. While Assessor Al Zielinski was removed from the ballot, he mounted what almost certainly was a successful write-in campaign.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has since been updated to correct Eric Ruth's position with Alliance Contractors Inc.