Democrat Michael Noland won election to the Kane County Circuit Court Nov. 6, and will be sworn in next month to fill a vacancy left by the retirement of Judge David Akemann.
With 83,502 votes to Republican Thomas Hartwell’s 79,535, the Elgin attorney and former state senator won the seat by 3,967 votes, according to unofficial results.
Hartwell, who currently serves as the Kane County Circuit Clerk, did not respond to a voicemail message seeking comment.
“It was a real nail-biter,” Noland said of the election. “It was very gratifying and one for the history books. I think the county is changing to be more open to the plurality of leadership. The people who elected me were a combination of Democrats, Republicans and independents. I was very gratified by a broad base of support. I could not have won without Republican support.”
Hartwell had been chairman of the Kane County Republican Central Committee, a post which he resigned last December as a legal requirement to run for judge.
Even with that level of name-recognition as head of the county’s GOP, Noland still won.
“One thing for sure is that door-to-door is a fundamental rule that you have to abide by in local elections,” Noland said.
“We have been knocking on them [doors] for over a year – 3,000 in the primary and then we knocked on another 7,000 between the primary and the general election,” Noland said. “There is no getting around it that this is the hard work you have to engage in and I don’t think the other side was taking it to that level.”
Noland used a Segway to go door-to-door, saving his feet and saving time.
But Noland said his victory was also a combination of factors.
“People want results. Voters are now expecting results and they don’t care if you’re a Democrat or Republican or whatever party,” Noland said. “They want health care. They want property tax relief. They don’t want something for nothing.”
But for Ken Shepro, the current chairman for the Kane County Republican Central Committee, every Democrat was a beneficiary of the money spent at the top of the ticket – meaning J.B Pritzker for governor – even if it was not actually spent on Noland.
“All those people came out to vote Democrat,” Shepro said.
It was not that Kane County Republicans stayed home, but they were overwhelmed by the number of new voters and younger voters who voted for the top of the ticket, Shepro said.
“A Democrat was going to win that [judge] race and the reason they were going to win it – despite what everybody’s ego tells them about name recognition – no one knows the judges,” Shepro said. “When people came out to vote for Pritzker or Rauner, they voted that way all the way down the ballot.”
Shepro said the problem was not that Republicans’ base was not motivated – they turned out 76,000 votes countywide for Rauner, more than the 68,000 for him four years ago.
“The blue wave was very deep and Noland won because of the blue wave,” Shepro said. “Out of 1,000 voters in the county, maybe 300 are Republicans and 200 are Democrats and other 500 are neither. He did not get any of those Republicans. He got an overwhelming percentage of the other 500.”
Noland would disagree.
“As late as yesterday [Nov. 6] afternoon, a gentleman I have known a long time – a staunch Republican and conservative – told me he just voted for me.”