The choice for chairman

State Sen. Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora), a candidate for Kane County Board Chairman, talks with supporters before a panel discussion and luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn in St. Charles Jan. 13. Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns, Sue Klinkhamer and Bill Sarto are also candidates.
State Sen. Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora), a candidate for Kane County Board Chairman, talks with supporters before a panel discussion and luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn in St. Charles Jan. 13. Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns, Sue Klinkhamer and Bill Sarto are also candidates.

With the primary election coming Tuesday, four candidates looking for their party’s nomination for Kane County Board chairman soon will learn who the people have chosen.

State Sen. Chris Lauzen, R-Aurora, and Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns are vying for the Republican nomination, while former Carpentersville Village President Bill Sarto and former St. Charles Mayor Sue Klinkhamer seek the Democratic nod.

Winners in the primary contest will face off in the Nov. 6 General Election.

“We are in the final lap,” Burns said. “We are doing what any campaign does in the final days – reach as many people as possible with our positive message of success, teamwork and a clear vision for Kane County.”

Burns said he is spending his mornings shaking hands and encouraging voters at train stations, going out at night where people are gathering and knocking on doors on weekends.

“We’re out and as visible as possible with my message,” Burns said.

Lauzen said his campaign is progressing.

“We are just doing our work,” Lauzen said. “And I’m just grateful for the hundreds – literally hundreds – of volunteers working in this campaign.”

Sarto said he is working hard to get as many votes as possible. He also disputed conventional wisdom that the GOP nominee would be the de facto winner in November.

“I would not say this is a Republican county,” Sarto said. “This is going to be a very good year for Democratic candidates. I would not have gotten into this race if I did not think it was winnable. In the last chairman’s race against the incumbent, the Democrat came very, very close.”

In 2008, Democrat Sandy Kaczmarski lost to Republican incumbent Karen
McConnaughay. McConnaughay secured 54.5 percent of the vote, while Kaczmarski recorded 45.5 percent of the vote countywide.

“I just think whoever the Republican nominee is – Chris Lauzen or Kevin Burns – I will match up against that person,” Sarto said.

Klinkhamer, who is running a low-key “un-campaign” – on name recognition only, no cash, signs or volunteers – said she put her name on the ballot and would wait to see what happens.

“I don’t see a high turnout, and I obviously see a bigger turnout on the Republican side and more Democratic crossover to vote in the chairman’s race on the Republican side,” Klinkhamer said. “My observation in the 2010 midterm elections was that people who felt strongly about candidates came out on the Republican side a lot. I’m a statistics geek when it comes to voting. I don’t see more than 1 percent taking a Democratic ballot.”

The Kane County government and its board will go through a transition, no matter who gets elected, she said.

“You get who you vote for,” Klinkhamer said. “And four years from now, the scene will be totally different.”

• • •

Certainly, the most high-profile of the two contested races is the one between Lauzen and Burns.

Burns, 47, has been mayor of Geneva since 2001. He has worked in professional fundraising for various nonprofits, including USA Equestrian and U.S. Figure Skating and most recently was hired as a fundraiser for the National Safety Council as director of corporate and community partnerships.

Lauzen, 59, has been a state senator since 1992. He has been a certified public accountant since 1975 and has built and sold a successful 14-year accounting practice.

Lauzen quickly draws the distinction between them, as he is anti-abortion, pro-gun rights and concealed right to carry, supports marriage between a man and a woman and is against red-light cameras – a direct dig at Burns, who, as mayor, pushed for two cameras currently on Randall Road.

“I am an unambiguous conservative,” Lauzen said. “This is a nomination for the Republican party candidate. I am closer in my philosophy and in my agenda to what the base is. Freeze the property tax levy, drain the swamp of cronyism.”

Burns said he is appealing to more than just the base.

“The chairman has to serve all of Kane County,” Burns said. “What Mr. Lauzen has just stated underscores what Mr. Lauzen represents – divide the county, represent only those who [you] think like you, and let the others fend for themselves. That’s not me.”

The two spar on taxes and the role of government, as well. Lauzen said his top priority is to freeze the tax levy. Burns counters that if the county does nothing and spends no more money “nothing gets done.”

• • •

The Burns-Lauzen contest has taken several interesting turns:

• Lauzen held a news conference at Randall Road and Williamsburg Drive to say he is against red-light cameras and Burns supports them. That intersection is one of two in Geneva with a red-light camera. Burns and city officials said the cameras were installed as a safety concern and reported a reduction in crashes.

• Kane County Conservative Coalition Chairman Jon Zahm called a news conference to share 116 pages of campaign emails Burns sent and received through his city email address. Burns blamed it on a technical glitch, saying the city’s email address was the default address for his campaign. He said the issue has been corrected. The use of the mayoral email account in a campaign is now under an ethics review through Geneva’s administrative ethics policies.

• U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, went door-to-door campaigning with Burns and other Republicans on Jan. 28. The Burns campaign sent a news release stating that Hultgren told voters Burns was “the right man for the job” of county board chairman. Six days later, Hultgren endorsed Lauzen at his winter barbecue fundraiser.

Burns said hew was “taken aback” by the apparent about-face, but Lauzen disputed that Hultgren said anything that sounded like an endorsement of Burns.

“Randy and I have worked together and supported each other for years,” Lauzen had said then. “He scheduled his endorsement at our winter barbecue … in front of more than 350 mutual friends. It was a clear testimonial that I appreciate.”

Hultgren, his staff and press spokesmen were all unavailable at the time, but in a later conversation, the congressman said he endorsed Lauzen as the best candidate for county chairman. When asked whether he had introduced Burns to voters in Huntley as “the right man for the job,” Hultgren said he could not remember.

“I’ve known Chris for many years and worked with him,” Hultgren said. “He asked me for my endorsement, and I offered it to him. We agreed to it mutually. ... I stated clearly I think [Lauzen] is best man for the job. I am going to leave it at that and let the voters decide.”

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