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Democrats target Klinkhamer in chairman race

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

Despite charges by one township’s Democratic organization that Sue Klinkhamer is not a true Democrat, the former mayor of St. Charles said Monday that she is the real deal.

“I’m an authentic Democrat,” Klinkhamer said.

Klinkhamer is running as a Democrat against Bill Sarto, former village president of Carpentersville, in the March 20 primary for Kane County Board chairman. Whoever wins that contest will face off against the Republican candidate – either Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns or State Sen. Chris Lauzen, R-Aurora, in the Nov.  6 General Election.

But Dundee Township Democratic Chairman David Reece, who sent out a stinging criticism of Klinkhamer, claimed that she has a long history of voting Republican in primary elections and she did not go through the Democratic Party to get local support as Sarto did.

“It’s like a little soap opera, and Republicans have been doing this for years,” Reece said. “We’re playing serious.”

The political strategy is to send in a stealth candidate to make the real party candidate use up resources and exhaust volunteers in a primary race – and then not have enough left for the election fight, he said.

“It’s very suspicious,” Reece said of Klinkhamer’s candidacy. “If someone is running and puts no effort into it and has a Republican voting record – don’t vote for her. She’s not a real Democrat, and she does not represent Kane County or Dundee Township Democrats.”

Klinkhamer’s voting record in Kane County shows she voted Republican in six primaries from 1996 through 2006. Then the record shows she voted Democratic in the special and general primary in 2008 and the 2010 primary.

But that, she said, does not prove she is a Republican. It proves that when you are the minority party, you will take the other team’s ballot just to have a voice in who gets nominated, she said.

“There was no point,” Klinkhamer said, of pulling a Democratic ballot in those years. “It’s a wasted vote. There were very few Democrats in Kane County ... with opposition, and I had a lot of friends who ran for state’s attorney and other offices. You can vote any way you want in the general election. And I’ve never voted for a Republican for president.”

Klinkhamer said she did not know she needed the party to anoint her in order to be on the ballot as a Democrat.

“I feel I have accomplished a lot and have enough of a record that I’m not going to grovel,”  Klinkhamer said. “I don’t say that in an arrogant way ... the great thing about Democracy is anyone can put their name on a ballot. I put my name on a ballot.”

Mark Guthle, the chairman of the Kane County Democratic Central Committee, said he is not buying into the charge that Klinkhamer is not a Democrat. Guthle added that no candidate needs to be slated or approved by the party.

“She passed her petitions out; she’s running as a Democrat, declaring her party affiliation,” Guthle said. “People declare and pass petitions, and that is how the process works.”

For Ken Shepro, St. Charles Township Republican chairman and the Kane County Republican Party vice chairman, the question of Klinkhamer’s party affiliation is fascinating.

“It’s just sour grapes on the part of Dundee Democrats,” Shepro said of the criticism of Klinkhamer. “Sarto will get no bipartisan support ... Klinkhamer can beat him without lifting a finger because she’s so well-known.”

One of the candidates Klinkhamer voted for in a Republican primary was Geneva attorney Timothy O’Neil, who ran for Kane County state’s attorney. O’Neil said he can vouch that Klinkhamer is a Democrat.

“There’s no question about it,” O’Neil said of Klinkhamer’s Democratic Party affiliation. “We have been friends for 20 years, and we have political debates all the time.”

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