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Five (well, 4) La Salle County Board members to lose seats

Several members of the La Salle County Board could be out next election after a Thursday vote that reworks the county’s district map and makes some voters choose between incumbents.

The board voted 24-4 to approve a redistricting plan based on data from the 2020 U.S. Census. Bruce Harris and Associates crafted the map based on population shifts, as the county slid from 113,924 residents to 109,658 over the past 10 years. The result: each district should have an “ideal population” of 3,791 residents.

But how to draw the lines? The gains and losses were uneven – rural Ottawa gained the most people; southeast La Salle County lost the most – and Streator’s much-changed precincts proved trickiest to reconfigure.

After much calculation, the map leaves five districts with two incumbents each. One won’t result in a contest: Randy Freeman (R-Lostant) isn’t seeking reelection, leaving Tina Busch (R-Tonica) presently unopposed for the new District 29. Four other districts also are double-occupied, setting the stage for contests between incumbents. Five districts were created and are effectively vacant.

Board members had more technical questions than opposing comments and passed the new map with only a few dissenters.

Streator Republicans Thomas Green and Walter Roach will square off for the new District 27 but both voted “yes.” Craig Emmett (R-Wedron) likewise voted for the map and will contend for the new District 7 against Robert Lee (D-Seneca), who was absent and did not vote. Lee said Friday he would have voted in favor of the map.

“I think no matter where you draw you line,” he said, “you’re always going to have somebody who’s going to be unhappy.”

Board member Mike Kasap (D-La Salle) voted no, saying the new map amounted to “gerrymandering.”

Curtis Faber voted no. He must run against fellow Mendota Republican JoAnne McNally, who didn’t oppose the map, for the new District 1.

Faber said his vote was no reflection of the forced race against McNally – “That part doesn’t really bother me” – but rather because he favored shrinking the number of precincts before realigning the district borders.

“We only need 90 precincts and we’ve got 119,” Faber said, adding later, “We have too many precincts but they didn’t bother to shrink those first.”

Arratta Znaniecki (R-Ottawa) and Elmer Walter (R-Grand Ridge) are thrust into a race for the new District 24. Both voted against the map, saying it favored the Democrats.

“The Republicans are going to take a hit here,” Znaniecki said. She then signaled Walter, seated to her right, and added, “I’ll be up against my buddy here.”

“Same reason,” Walter said, when asked to explain his opposition. “We’re taking a big hit.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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