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Republican challenger seeking to unseat incumbent McHenry County chairman brought in nearly three times the donations

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In the midst of the second-ever race for McHenry County Board chairman, Republican challenger Mike Buehler's campaign has brought in just under $163,000 in donations and loans, dwarfing the $55,000 Democratic incumbent Jack Franks has received, campaign disclosure forms show.

Franks, however, has the benefits of incumbency, including several sizable investments made in the late 2000s that he's been able to pull $35,000 from, according to the two most recent quarterly reports his campaign filed.

"I made a conscious effort to spend the vast majority of my time only doing the people's work and not campaigning," Franks said about the difference in his campaign's fundraising.

"I've been fortunate in fundraising previously but I really haven't tapped into it," he added. "[Buehler] has outspent me ... but that's OK. I've been outspent in many of my races and I've never lost."

Franks also attributed the vast gap in funding to the fact that he has not held any campaign events since the start of the pandemic, while his opponent has participated in a number of events.

Buehler received a total of $82,834 from Republican committees, a local Republican interest group and the campaign funds of other local Republicans. This number includes two sizable in-kind donations of $32,150 and $26,644 in advertising from the Illinois Republican Party, his largest two contributions, according to a Northwest Herald analysis of campaign disclosure records.

Buehler could not be reached for comment after multiple attempts to reach him at work and at his personal line on Wednesday and Thursday.

Franks criticized the two in-kind donations, pointing to two donations of similar amounts that Buehler made to the Illinois Republican Party on the same days and arguing that it was a purposeful maneuver to obscure who funded the advertisements.

The McHenry County Republican Party donated $13,590 to the Buehler campaign, according to the state board of elections.

Most of Franks' contributions came from local businesses and Illinois business interest groups. His largest donation was from the Chicagoland Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC – an interest group representing a union of construction workers – for $20,000, records show.

Franks is also supported by a few unions with a total of $10,000 given in two contributions of $5,000 by UFCW Local 881, a union representing 32,000 workers within the retail and service industries.

Another contribution came from the Chicago Laborers' District Council, a union representing "hard working men and women in the construction, municipal, and industrial sectors," according to their website.

"The checks I was getting were people who were sending them without my calling," Franks said, emphasizing that he took a passive approach to campaigning this election cycle.

Buehler's largest source of funding is himself with a contribution of $25,000 of his own money reported on Oct. 21 and loans reported in April, May and October that added up to $24,110, according to the state board of elections.

Along with his twin brother, Buehler has owned D&M Scale Services in Bensenville, which provides industrial weighing services for trucking companies, for the past 25 years, according to reporting by the Northwest Herald.

Many of Buehler's contributions also came from individuals in McHenry County, amounting to $18,105. The average donation size from an individual was $670.

A number of businesses donated to the Franks campaign amounting to a total of $9,750. Some of these include a local car dealership, Union Pacific Railroad and Thelen Sand & Gravel Inc., an Antioch-based construction product supplier.

Some of the business interest groups that backed Franks were Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois, Realtor Political Action Committee and Scot Forge Company PAC, which represents a metal forging company, according to state board of elections records.

The local Republican campaigns that backed Buehler were the campaigns of McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim, state Rep. Allen Skillicorn and state Sen. Craig Wilcox. Prim's campaign contributed the most with a total of $1,250.

The businesses that donated to the Buehler campaign were predominately in construction and manufacturing industries, such as Arrow Road Construction Company and Baker Manufacturing, according to the state board of elections. Donations from businesses made up $6,500 of Buehler's total contributions.

As of Sept. 30, Buehler's campaign reported a fund balance of $22,219, while Franks' had a fund balance of $16,288.

Candidates are required to file campaign finance disclosure statements on quarterly basis. The report for the third quarter, which ran July 1 through Sept. 30, was due by Oct. 15. This means that most of the donations received by the two campaigns in the days leading up to the election won't be disclosed until Jan. 15 at the latest.

Campaigns are required to disclose any contributions worth more than $1,000 sooner than that, normally within five business days of receiving the donation but, in the 30 days leading up to an election, that filing time is shortened to two business days.

Much of the two campaigns' spending has been focused on advertising and operating expenses for campaign office space.

One big-ticket expenditure for Franks was legal fees, spending $66,914 in campaign funds in April and June of this year, the disclosures show.

"I used those funds as a result of being a target of frivolous, politically motivated actions," Franks said. "It doesn't make me happy to use them that way, but I have to defend myself."

One expense missing from the reports relates to an anti-Franks billboard that went up on Route 31 in Crystal Lake, just North of Route 14. The billboard references allegations of sexual assault levied against Franks, allegations which he has denied. He has not been charged with any crime.

The billboard states that it was "paid for by #MeTooIL," an organization that is not registered with the Illinois State Board of Elections or the Secretary of State.

This could be because the organization has yet to exceed the $5,000 threshold of political funds raised or spent over a 12-month period, said Matt Dietrich, a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections.

No complaints of campaign finance law violation have been filed in connection to the billboard, Dietrich said.

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