ST. CHARLES – Former St. Charles Mayor Don DeWitte has been selected to complete the term of state Sen. Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles), who soon will be stepping down. He also will be the Republican nominee on the ballot for that 33rd District senate seat in the November election.
DeWitte said he was encouraged to run after McConnaughay made her initial announcement about leaving in early June, more recently noting Sept. 3 would be her final day in office.
"Several current and former supporters called – aggressively suggesting that I should throw my name into that hat," DeWitte said. "I think most of them felt I had the right tools in my tool kit, so to speak, from my local government background with St. Charles and more of a regional background with my service with the RTA [Regional Transportation Authority] board since 2013."
Kane County Republican Party Chairman Ken Shepro said the state statute for filling a vacancy calls for the district's party chairmen of the party that holds the seat to make the choice with weighted votes. Because the 33rd District straddles Kane and McHenry counties, Shepro said he teamed up in the evaluation with Diane Evertsen, who chairs the McHenry County Republican Party. Shepro said the four-week interview process looked at seven contenders and he and Evertsen, who cast the sole votes, were aided in the evaluation by several people including Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon.
After McConnaughay steps down Sept. 3, DeWitte will be appointed within a few days to the vacant senate seat and sworn in, according to Shepro, who said McConnaughay would have been up for reelection for a four-year term.
"She ran in the primary unopposed," Shepro said. "She had an opportunity come along to be the national government affairs advisor for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America."
Prior to her election to the Illinois State Senate for two terms, McConnaughay chaired the Kane County Board from 2004-12.
“While I truly have been honored to represent my neighbors and the communities of our district in Springfield, the opportunity to use my public service experience and help organizations achieve their policy priorities is a new challenge I look forward to," McConnaughay stated in a news release. "I am excited to announce that one of my first clients is the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.”
BGCA is one of the largest charities serving youth in the United States, annually serving more than 4.3 million young people through more than 4,300 club facilities, according to the release.
The fall election is set for Nov. 6.
"We have been very successful in starting to put together a campaign team," DeWitte said. "Both the county and state organizations have been extremely helpful. We will run a very aggressive campaign against the Democrat in the race. And we'll do our best to represent all the residents of the district in that process."
DeWitte said he and McConnaughay collaborated on two bridge projects while he served as mayor and she chaired the Kane County Board, involving construction of the Stearns Road and Red Gate bridges.
"I intend to continue work that Sen. McConnaughay has initiated and will continue to work those projects to move them forward in Springfield," he said, citing school funding as one ongoing project.
He said McConnaughay, who was appointed to the governor's ethnics commission, has worked on ethics and sexual harassment issues, striving to speed up resolution of harassment claims, an issue that also is important to him.
DeWitte added he plans to be a strong advocate for modernizing the state's infrastructure, using his background in municipal government.
"Municipalities have taken the brunt of budget cuts that have been implemented in the budget processes of the last two years in Springfield," he said.
Shepro praised his fiscal conservatism, and said DeWitte had served as president of the Metro West Council of Government, comprised of mayors and administrators, making him someone many mayors know and would look to for help with their issues in Springfield.
DeWitte served as alderman in the city of St. Charles from 1993 until he was elected mayor in 2005, serving for two terms.
The Democratic state senatorial candidate is attorney and activist Nancy Zettler of Algonquin.