Apr 3, 2023 - Politics

Important elections to watch in Chicago's suburbs

Illustration of a stack of books with an apple sitting on top of them with ballot imagery and shapes behind it

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Chicago's mayoral runoff has gobbled up most of the oxygen for tomorrow's elections, but some other important races could shape how the city's suburbs look and feel for years.

  • From mayors to school board members, these traditionally "low-interest" elections have been overrun with ideological politics and tons of partisan cash.
Suburban school boards

Suburban school boards: Pandemic precautions and culture wars over what's taught in schools have thrust these previously sleepy, nonpartisan races into the center of political debate.

Driving the news: Conservative groups have poured thousands of dollars into several suburban school board races and library board elections, only to be matched by Governor Pritzker and other Democrats.

  • Several candidates have been trained by groups like Awake Illinois, a Naperville-based organization that formed to oppose mask mandates in schools. The candidates are given conservative talking points on issues like parental rights and education.

What they're saying: Jennifer Stamp, an Oswego mother who co-founded the progressive Parents for Progress, told the Chicago Tribune that Awake Illinois is just "choosing candidates to advance a political agenda in places where they don't live and where their children don't attend school."

Flashback: In 2021, the far-right extremist Proud Boys joined a protest to ban a book at a Downers Grove school board meeting. Last year, angry parents and activists took over a library board meeting in Lincolnwood.

The latest: Just last week, the Illinois House passed a bill that would restrict state funding to any library board that banned books.

Here are some other important suburban elections:

Naperville mayor

It's a tight race to replace outgoing mayor Steve Chirico. Candidate Steve Wherli comes from a well-known family — the closest the western suburb has to royalty. The family arrived in Naperville in 1840.

Yes, but: That may not mean much to a new population of residents that have arrived in the 21st century. Benny White is running after serving on the Naperville City Council since 2017.

  • White is the first Black council member in city history.

Key issues: Development, affordable housing and the newly passed assault weapon ban.

Arlington Heights Village Board

Several board members are stepping down, paving the way for a new village board to make the crucial decision on the Bears' possible relocation to the old Arlington Park racetrack area.

Driving the news: Tempers are flaring after a resident accused Arlington Heights officials of receiving financial benefits from the Bears to relocate. Mayor Thomas Hayes denies the accusations.

  • Outgoing trustee John Scaletta told the Arlington Heights Post that the new board should be "very responsible with the decisions that are made regarding the Chicago Bears."
  • The Bears aren't just a topic in the village board race in Arlington Heights. It's also spilling over to races in neighboring communities like Mount Prospect.

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