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Once rare birds, Lake County Dems spreading their wings

Democratic senator Terry Link for Illinois Senate 30th district speaks. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

Democratic senator Terry Link for the Illinois Senate 30th district speaks. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 7, 2013 1:45AM

When Terry Link first won election to the General Assembly in November 1996, he was a rare bird — a Democratic senator in Lake County, a title formerly reserved for Highland Park’s Grace Mary Stern.

His margin was thin as a ballot sheet — 168 votes over Republican state Rep. Thomas Lachner of Lake Bluff. Meanwhile, Republicans across the ballot cruised back to office: Adeline Geo-Karis ran unopposed in the 31st Senate District, Philip Crane was re-elected in the 8th Congressional District with 65 percent of the vote, and Republican John Porter won his final race in the 10th District with 67 percent.

Election nights since then have hinted at Lake County trending more Democratic, but the evidence has perhaps never been more stark than what was seen Tuesday night, when Link not only won re-election with 66.5 percent of the vote, but saw members of his party take two seats from the GOP — Melinda Bush in the 31st Senate District and Sam Yingling in the 62nd House District.

On Wednesday, Link said what was seen Tuesday night “speaks volumes about the changes in Lake County.”

“Like I said a long time ago, I remember when I was growing up and there were roughly 150,000 people in Lake County,” the Waukegan Democrat said. “Now, you’re seeing a different mindset moving into this county, and they want to see different things. They don’t want to see a good-old-boys club — they want to see people who can represent them and meet their needs.”

Other Democratic winners on Tuesday included Deerfield’s Julie Morrison in the 29th Senate District, previously held by Democrat Susan Garrett; Highwood’s Scott Drury in the 58th House District, holding a seat previously held by Democrat Karen May; and Vernon Hills’ Carol Sente in the 59th House District, who defeated veteran Buffalo Grove Republican Sidney Mathias.

But there were Lake County Republicans who held their ground on Tuesday, including Antioch’s JoAnn Osmond in the 61st House District, Barrington Hills’ David McSweeney in the 52nd House District and Mundelein’s Ed Sullivan Jr., who ran unopposed in the 51st House District.

Regarding the lost seats, Lake County GOP chairman Robert Cook of Wauconda said Wednesday that “we knew we were handicapped going into Tuesday” in light of the legislative remap that was directed by the General Assembly’s Democratic majority after the 2010 Census.

“This is something we’ve been fighting for a while with the redistricting,” Cook said. “We knew it was going to be tough, and our (candidates) ran good campaigns. I just wish we had better results.”

Cook added that moving beyond November 2012, “the goal is to continue to recruit good people, to find people who reflect the area they live in” to both hold and pick up offices in future elections.

Link said he doesn’t feel that redistricting played that strong a role in Tuesday’s results.

“I don’t care how you redistrict — you’ve still got to run and get out your voters,” Link said. “If you look at the 31st, that was a quote-unquote Republican map, and Melinda Bush went out and won it, and Sam Yingling went out and won a quote-unquote Republican map.”

The legislative pickups in Lake County contributed to results that produced veto-proof majorities for the party in both the Illinois House and Senate when the 98th General Assembly convenes in January.

At the same time, Democrats now control the North Shore Sanitary District with the election of Preston Carter in Ward 1, and picked up a Democratic judgeship with the election of Patricia Fix in the Second Judicial Subcircuit. The party also held on to the Lake County Coroner’s Office with the win by Thomas Rudd and the Recorder’s Office, with the re-election of Mary Vanderventer of Waukegan.

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