In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s an election coming up, and it’s a rather important one. One could argue that all midterms elections are important, but this one has some added heft. Why? This country is a shit show. Every week feels like a year, and we can’t even remember the horrific and absurd news last week, let along last month. Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in just three weeks ago. THREE WEEKS. And we’ve already moved on, because we’re constantly forced to deal with whatever ridiculous thing is happening now.

This is the first real opportunity since the 2016 election to do something about it — to do some sort of course correction. Your votes in this election offer the chance to affect change at the local, state, and federal levels. Yes, people are yelling at you to vote every day on social media. Yes, people are calling and knocking on your doors. It's with good reason. Look, this voting guide is being run in Opinion — rather than Culture where we typically put it — because I truly do not feel like being neutral. We currently have one party that holds power over all branches of our federal government, check and balances have been thrown out the proverbial window, and at the head of it all is an at best grossly incompetent and at worst xenophobic, racist, misogynist that hits us over the head daily with lies and divisiveness as the rest of his party stands by and nods while claiming “both sides” are fault for our country ripping at the seams. It's bullshit.

Maybe it was bad timing to write this after the events of last week — where bombs were sent to people whom the president repeatedly hammered at his rallies and on Twitter, a man specifically sought to kill black people and found the opportunity to do so in a grocery store that allows open carry of firearms, and 11 innocent people were gunned down in the midst of their Shabbat prayers by a man saying all Jews must die (in the same week the president declared himself a nationalist and railed against “globalists”), after which the president came to our state to rally his troops once again, this time with our own IL-13 and IL-15 reps standing right by his side (and our current Governor lurking in the crowd). Or maybe it’s the right timing. Maybe a week ago, this would’ve been a regular ‘ole voting guide with a bit of snark thrown in. I’ve got no patience for that. Were these issues festering before Trump was elected? Hell yes. Does the Democratic party have its own issues? Hell yes. But right now they are the only hope we have.

What does this have to do with state and local races? I guess for me it comes down to personal values, as I assume it does for most. And right now, if you’re someone running for office and there’s an “R” by your name, and you are openly supporting the direction that party is taking us, then no thank you. If you choose to stay silent about it, then I’m skeptical.

Some of our local elected positions: Judge, County Clerk, Sheriff, etc., are roles that are seemingly non-partisan, even though they are partisan races, so I’m willing to examine those more closely, but here’s a pattern that I see. Overwhelmingly, these are positions that have long been held by white, Republican men, who then appoint/hire white, Republican men to train up as successors, who can then run on “experience.” I have no doubt that they are all well-qualified, capable people, but experience isn’t everything. This way of doing things effectively shuts the door on voices, experiences, and perspectives of those who do not fall into those categories: namely women and people of color.

So yeah, this election is important. Voting can be inconvenient; do it anyway. You might be disillusioned and think that your vote doesn’t really matter and that all of these people suck; do it anyway. Even if your life doesn’t depend on it, someone’s does.

Important Voting Info

  • Today, November 1st, is the last day to request a mail-in ballot, which you can do here. Once you receive it, you MUST have it postmarked by November 6th in order for it to count. If you just drop it in a mailbox somewhere on the 6th there’s no guarantee that will happen, so just fill it out and do it now. Once you’ve put it in the mail you can track it’s progress here to make sure that it gets counted.
  • Go here to make sure that you are registered and find your sample ballot. You’ll also find your polling place. Not registered? Don’t panic. You can still register at any early voting location or at your polling place on election day. Just be prepared with two forms of ID. You will need to vote immediately after. Voting tip: you can fill out your sample ballot and bring it with you to the polls to use as your guide.
  • Early voting is happening in several locations across the county through November 5th. You can find the locations and hours here. Most of the time you can get in and out relatively quickly.
  • Polling places are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on November 6th, election day. Want to know your rights as a voter in Illinois? Read up on them here.

Do some research

The Champaign County Voters Alliance  is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization that gives questionnaires to every candidate, and it’s a great resource to be able to compare and contrast answers from candidates in every race that affects voters in Champaign County.

If you want more detailed background on issues local to Champaign County, check out Cheat Sheet of Champaign County Blog. It’s quite thorough, so allow yourself some time to peruse.

Illinois Public Media has been comprehensively covering the election, so be sure to check out their website as well. You can listen to candidate interviews, research your ballot, and find answers to all of your voting questions.

ICYMI earlier this week, a Civics class from Urbana High School has created a voting guide as a class project, so be sure to give their site some hits and see all the great work they’ve done.

Off to the races

There are a lot of races on your ballot this time around, so I will not detail all of them, but here are some highlights. We’ve interviewed several local candidates, and I’ll link those interviews where applicable. Note: this will focus on contested races in Champaign County.

Representative in U.S. Congress, 13th District

Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (D)

Rodney Davis (R)

This race has become one to watch at the national level. In this typically red district, Betsy Dirksen Londrigan has made it a race, causing heavy hitters from both parties to lend their support: Senator John Lewis campaigned for Londrigan in Decatur, and Davis is pulling in all the big dogs: Pence, Ryan, Rubio, he even zipped on down to a Trump rally that wasn’t in his district. Rodney Davis has always painted himself as a moderate/bipartisan type dude. However, it’s been clear over the past two years that he has no concern but for those in his own party, that he stands firmly with Trump close to 100% of the time, and likes to throw around the term “vitriolic rhetoric” while refusing to condemn the words coming out of his leader’s mouth. He’s also continually voted to repeal the ACA and replace it with a plan that does not protect people with pre-existing conditions, a fact he’s repeatedly lied about. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say Londrigan, who is campaigning heavily on keeping healthcare affordable for all, and who has made it a point to engage with all types of voters across the district, is the better option.

Representative in U.S. Congress, 15th District

Kevin Gaither (D)

John Shimkus (R)

The Republican incumbent John Shimkus is being challenged by Kevin Gaither, though the race is likely to be not as tight as the one in IL-13. Which is too bad, because Shimkus and Davis are cut from the same cloth.

Governor

J.B. Pritzker (D)

Bruce Rauner (R)

Kash Jackson (Libertarian)

Sam McCann (Conservative)

We’ve got billionaire running against billionaire here (plus a couple of other guys), so which billionaire would you like to put in charge? 

Attorney General

Kwame Raoul (D)

Erika Harold (R)

Bubba Harsy (Libertarian)

C-U attorney Erika Harold is likely to fare well vote-wise in this area. The job of the attorney general is to advocate for the people of the state, so who do you want to advocate for you?

Illinois House of Representatives, 104th district

Cynthia Cunnigham (D)

Mike Marron (R)

Interesting tidbit: Cynthia Cunningham is running against Mike Marron, who was appointed as a replacement for Chad Hays, who decided not to finish out his term. Yet Marron had already announced a year prior that he planned to run for Hays’ vacancy, as Hays was not seeking re-election. Republican leadership conveniently went ahead and placed him in the job, so though he has to now run again, he gets to run on “experience.”

Other state races: Secretary of State, Comptroller, Treasurer

Illinois Circuit District 6 Judge, Blockman vacancy

Ramona Sullivan (D)

Roger Webber (R)

Illinois Circuit District 6 Judge, Clem vacancy

Chad Beckett (D)

Randy Rosenbaum (R)

There are two vacancies being contested in this year’s election, as well as two judges up for retention. Prior to this year’s election cycle, two circuit judges from District 6 retired. Randy Rosenbaum, previously a public defender, and Roger Webber, previously an associate judge, were appointed to fill those vacancies. Since they were not elected, they now have to be voted into office, and they are both being challenged, by Chad Beckett and Ramona Sullivan, respectively. You can read our interview with Ramona Sullivan here.

County Executive

Darlene Kloeppel (D)

Gordy Hulten (R)

County Clerk Gordy Hulten is stepping down from his position to run for County Executive, a position that was created through a referendum vote last November. The position is essentially a “governor” for the county that would have the power to veto what the county board votes on. It’s creation has been a contentious issue, mainly split down party lines, with mostly Republican support and Democratic skepticism. Darlene Kloeppel, former Community Services Director for the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission is the Democratic candidate. We interviewed both Hulten and Kloeppel.

County Clerk

Aaron Ammons (D)

Matt Grandone (R)

The County Clerk has wide ranging duties, but one of the biggest is overseeing elections. In a time where our elections are under unprecedented scrutiny, with good reason, having someone you trust in this position is crucial. Urbana alderman Aaron Ammons (D) is up against Matt Grandone, who currently works under Hulten. As the election nears, this one is getting more contentious, particularly involving ads in support of Grandone (which you can read a bit more about here).

County Board

There are multiple contested races here, and these races are quite specific to where you live, so be sure to look up your sample ballot and see who your candidates are. The County Board decides how the county’s money is spent and oversees various county services related to health, public safety, public works, community planning and development, and more. They will also be working closely with the new County Executive.

Sheriff

Dustin Heuerman (D)

Allen Jones (R)

This will be the first opportunity in quite a while to elect a Sheriff, as retiring Sheriff Dan Walsh has run unopposed for several terms. We interviewed both Heuerman and Jones

Other local races: Treasurer, Auditor

Kudos if you've made it this far. Please vote. That is all.