McHenry County’ eight-year experiment with two-party rule on the County Board may have come to an end Tuesday evening with the defeat of both Democratic incumbents.
Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills, lost to her nearest Republican challenger, while GOP newcomer Andrew Gasser maintained a thin 169-vote lead over Nick Chirikos, D-Algonquin, as of early Wednesday morning. But that total does not include early and absentee votes, which had yet to be counted as of press time. Two other Democratic challengers were trounced by significant margins.
Should Gasser prevail, the 24-member County Board will once again be all Republican once the four new members are sworn in and seated Dec. 1. The board has had a Democratic presence since 2006, when James Kennedy won the Democratic Party’s first County Board victory in 30 years.
One of the newcomers, Republican Charles Wheeler, made history as the first black to win election to the board.
Four of the County Board’s six districts had contested races Tuesday evening for their two open seats apiece.
• In District 1, Chirikos came in behind Republican incumbent Robert Nowak, R-Lake in the Hills and Gasser, of Fox River Grove, for two open seats.
Nowak came in first with 7,553 votes. Gasser, a retired Air Force officer and new vice chairman of the McHenry County Republican Central Committee, received 4,990 votes, barely squeaking by Chirikos, a self-employed builder, who received 4,821 votes.
District 1 covers southern and eastern Algonquin Township and a sliver of Grafton Township, including parts of Algonquin, Cary, Fox River Grove, Lake in the Hills and Barrington Hills.
• In District 3, Incumbent Republican Joe Gottemoller and GOP newcomer Don Kopsell easily captured the two open seats.
Gottemoller, a zoning attorney who was one of the driving forces behind the successful adoption of the Unified Development Ordinance, received 7,394 votes. Kopsell, who served four terms as Nunda Township highway commissioner until losing in 2013, took the other seat with 5,650 votes. Bergan Schmidt, a retired history professor who served one term from 2008 to 2012, came in a distant third with 5,023 votes. All three candidates hail from the Crystal Lake area.
Kopsell replaces Republican Mary McClellan, who successfully ran for county clerk instead.
• Longtime incumbent John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake, handily won re-election to another term representing District 4.
Hammerand, a small business owner, won the most votes with 7,334. Wheeler, a McHenry small business owner and treasurer of the county GOP, came in second with 5,849 votes. Democratic challenger Arne Waltmire, a District 155 auto and industrial mechanics teacher from McHenry, came in a distant third with 4,541 votes.
Wheeler replaces Sandra Fay Salgado, elected earlier this year as chairwoman of the county Republican Party, who decided not to seek re-election.
• Republican Michael Rein, a Woodstock chiropractor, won his rematch over Yensen, who beat him in 2012 to win re-election.
Incumbent Republican John Jung, a Woodstock business owner, won the most votes with 5,617, and Rein came in second with 4,955. Yensen, a United Way executive director and former Lake in the Hills trustee, received 4,308 votes. Yensen won a second term in 2012, making her the only Democrat in county history to win re-election to the County Board.
District 5 covers Dorr Township, much of Grafton Township and one precinct of Greenwood Township, covering much of Woodstock, Lakewood and Huntley, and part of Lake in the Hills.
• Incumbent Republicans James Heisler and Donna Kurtz ran unopposed in District 2, which covers parts of Crystal Lake, Lake in the Hills and Lakewood. Republican incumbent Michele Aavang and GOP newcomer Larry W. Smith ran unopposed in District 6, which covers the rural western half of McHenry County. Smith defeated Republican incumbent Ersel Schuster, R-Woodstock, in the March primary.