This election could be pivotal on the McLean County Board. Democrats are playing offense in seeking seats on the County Board. There are six Democratic candidates challenging Republicans, enough to change party control of the board if they all win. And only one of five Democratic incumbents faces Republican competition for his seat. Even in a traditionally Republican County, ISU Political Scientist Lane Crothers says disparities like that can happen.
"It may be that in any given moment in any given cycle one party does a better job than the other at recruiting highly qualified candidates who then go out and do the work."
Crothers says this election year is also one in which the GOP does not have a huge amount of enthusiasm for its Presidential ticket, and that can affect down ballot candidate choices to run or not. Crothers says another factor in the relative lack of new GOP candidates challenging Democrats is the fact that most district maps tend to be drawn to protect incumbents, so there could be fewer opportunities for the GOP to pick up seats. He says parties have tendencies to avoid competition between parties and inside their own parties, which over time can reduce the number of new skilled office seekers.
Until this year there had never been more than seven Democratic candidates for the McLean County Board. There are eleven running next week. It is possible but unlikely Democrats would win all races and gain a majority. Crothers says, though, even a shift of a couple seats could change the nature of the board.
"Where it does perhaps pay off is to the degree that you can shape conversations, frame conversations, frame policies in committees in ways that otherwise might not have been done."
"It's not necessarily just an automatically pro growth agenda. But rather you might insist on certain kinds of belts of parks around developments or whatever else that perhaps a Republican would not have supported. But, it's going to be those kinds of effectivenesses on the margins."
In most districts only one Democrat is challenging to avoid splitting the party vote in the two seat territories. Democrats apparently believe the west side of Normal in District 4 is a favorable place. There are two candidates there. Observers note, District 4 went 57% for Obama in the last cycle and Democrats feel both their candidates can win. Crothers says in the absence of any information at all about a candidate, party affiliation matters. If anything at all is known, he says name recognition becomes the key factor.
There are currently five Democrats on the 20 member board. The party's high point was eight seats in 2004.
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