March 24, 2006

Primary Results Show Big Wins for Sierra Club Candidates

As the dust settles from Tuesday's Illinois primary elections, it is clear that voters in both Republican and Democratic primary races rewarded pro-environment candidates with their votes for state and local office.

Sierra Club worked hard to help its endorsed candidates in these races. Sierra Club volunteers staffed phonebanks, CTA and Metra stops, precinct walks, and mailing parties. We produced targeted mail pieces in many races to reach pro-environment voters and let them know about our endorsement. A few numbers from our primary campaign efforts:

*100 volunteers working on campaigns around the state
*35,000 mailings to targeted voters
*Over 5,000 personal phone calls to Sierra Club members
*35 Election Day volunteers in Cook County
*8 victories in 9 contested General Assembly races (5 Democrats, 3 Republicans)

Here is a roundup of the outcome in contested races where Sierra Club made endorsements:


Republican Primaries
Sierra Club targeted four suburban Republican primaries where there were clear differences between the candidates in hotly contested races. In Lake County's 62nd District, Sandy Cole is a Lake County Board member who has been a strong voice for smart growth, water supply protection, and expanding Lake County's forest preserves. She won with 59% of the vote against developer-backed candidate Barbara Oilschlager. Incumbent Paul Froehlich, a solid supporter of measures to reduce mercury pollution, protect wetlands, and preserve open space funding won handily in the 56th District. In the 95th District, West Chicago Mayor Michael Fortner, who has been active in efforts to clean up local thorium contamination, and dedicating West Chicago Prairie as an Illinois Nature Preserve, beat a well-funded challenger. Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins lost her campaign for the Republican nomination in the 27th Senate District.

Democratic Primaries
In Democratic races, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn-Currie, who last year won the Illinois Environmental Council's Lifetime Achievement Award, and for years has been a leader in passing legislation protecting people from harmful pollution, won handily in the face of her first significant primary challenge in years. State Senator Martin Sandoval, a member of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee and strong supporter of measures to clean up air pollution, particularly from old coal-burning power plants, held off a well-funded challenger in the 12th Senate District. State Senator Don Harmon, the lead Senate sponsor of legislation to spur renewable energy development and measures to clean up water pollution and protect open space, and State Representative David Miller, a solid supporter of clean air, wetlands protection, and open space legislation each won handily against primary opponents.

In addition, Sierra Club supported Dave Koehler in the Democratic Primary for Senator from the 46th District in the Peoria area. Koehler is seeking to replace retiring Senator George Shadid. He will bring support for action by the state to clean up pollution in the Illinois River, acquire more land for outdoor recreation, and promote clean, renewable energy sources to the Illinois Senate.

Forrest Claypool's reform campaign for Cook County Board President fell just short of victory in the face of a strong showing by machine politicians and a late wave of support for incumbent John Stroger after he suffered a stroke in the campaign's final days. However, our unprecedented effort to mobilize pro-environment voters across the County clearly demonstrated the public's interest in taking better care of our magnificent forest preserves will sets the state for better protection of Cook County's open spaces in the future.

The victory for Debra Shore's outsider campaign for MWRD is a testament to the outstanding campaign run by Debra, a longtime conservationist but rookie candidate, the public's demand for clean water, and the power of a Sierra Club endorsement. Debra was not slated by the Democratic Party but appears to have finished in first place (with some votes yet to be counted) on a day when "the machine" was out in full force.

Sierra Club endorsed Republicans Dewey Pierotti for President and Roger Kotecki for the Board of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District, and both were unopposed Tuesday. Endorsed candidate Kaaryn Oldfield lost her race for the Forest Preserve District Board to Michael Formento.

Sierra Club's campaign efforts in DeKalb County were focused on supporting a land acquisition referendum for the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District. If you haven't been there lately, the county is undergoing rapid sprawl and until now had no funding available to try to save wetlands, prairies, and forests from development. Tuesday's victory provides $5 million over the next decade.

Thank you and congratulations to all the Sierra Club volunteers who worked on these campaigns - your impact was truly felt.   

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