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Recognizing partisan reality

Recently, I wrote that Whiteside County voters tend to choose Republicans for down-ballot races.

Sure, the county supported Barack Obama for president last time around. But that's a high-profile race. Voters pay attention.

For low-profile contests, voters often go with their party affiliations. That's the case all over the country.

All of Whiteside County's countywide elected offices are held by Republicans. What's the reason for that?

Tom Boken, a Democrat and Sterling native, took exception to my conclusion that Whiteside voters tend to favor Republicans in down-ballot races, noting that the County Board is majority Democrat.

Boken, who now lives in DeKalb, is running against Republican Tom Demmer of Dixon in the 90th House District race.

He said Republicans in countywide races have run unopposed for decades.

"The Morrison Republicans have held the county offices for many, many years," he wrote in an email. "It isn't that voters choose Republicans over Democrats for those positions. They have been unopposed."

Whiteside has traditionally been Democratic in the more populous east side and more Republican in the west, Boken pointed out. True enough, but that doesn't explain why Democrats have refrained from running for countywide offices.

When I made my observation in the previous column, I was referring to the race for county recorder, which is between Republican incumbent Dawn Young and Democratic challenger Joan Padilla.

Boken defended Padilla.

"Do not dismiss the Padilla candidacy," he said.

I wouldn't do that. I was just pointing out partisan reality. Some candidates are exceptions to trends, and Padilla may well be one.

"Joan Padilla is a strong, viable candidate running in a presidential election year, where turnout is generally higher than off-year elections," Boken wrote. "This higher turnout should benefit Joan Padilla's campaign."

Padilla's campaign, he said, is causing Young to seriously campaign for her position.

In other words, it could be a real horse race.

Sauk Valley Media reporter David Giuliani covers the Whiteside and Lee county governments, Morrison and other smaller communities. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525. 

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