Candidates adapt campaigns to challenges of pandemic
A political campaign is challenging, hard work when times are “normal.”
A pandemic has added to the challenge of the 2020 general election campaign. Tuesday, Nov. 3, is Election Day.
Candidates who are running in Union County admit that the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has added an unexpected aspect to the 2020 campaign.
Four offices are on the ballot in Union County: coroner, state’s attorney, circuit clerk and a seat on the five-member Union County Board of Commissioners.
Races will be decided in the general election for state’s attorney, circuit clerk and the seat on the county board of commissioners.
Incumbent Union County Coroner Phil Hileman is unopposed in his bid for reelection. Hileman is a Democrat.
Hileman has said that his goal is “to continue to conduct the office of coroner in a compassionate manner.” He also will work “to continue to operate the office of coroner as economically as possible.”
Without any opposition in the election, the incumbent said he has not engaged in a lot of campaigning. His candidacy can be seen on signs which are on display in the county.
Hileman noted that he will continue to work closely with area law enforcement agencies. He also praised his three deputy coroners, saying they are “great people” who help him do the job.
In the race for a seat on the Union County Board of Commissioners, incumbent Democrat Bobby Toler Jr. faces a challenge from Republican Darryl Harvell.
Both candidates acknowledged that the pandemic has had an impact on their campaigns.
Toler said the pandemic has made campaigning “a lot more difficult.” Door-to-door visits, a traditional part of politicking, can make people feel uncomfortable in the current circumstances. Word-of-mouth, advertising and letters offer ways to get the message out.
Harvell, a businessman, who is used to being out in the community a lot, said the 2020 campaign is “very, very strange.”
“I do my campaign the best I can,” he said. Word-of-mouth, along with the use of social media, are being utilized.
Harvell said that he had planned to do personal events; with the pandemic, that is no longer possible.
Toler said that careful monitoring of county revenues is a key issue facing commissioners during the pandemic. He expects to continue to keep a close eye on the budget.
He said that it is also important to make sure that everyone in the community stays safe.
During the primary election, Toler detailed five key goals:
To keep the county in good financial condition, with a balanced budget.
To work with his fellow commissioners and office holders to provide necessary equipment and technology for their departments.
To provide public services, while looking for revenue sources, other than property taxes.
Continued support for public safety, including law enforcement, the ambulance service and an ongoing bridge replacement program.
Economic development for the county.
Harvell said the economy, taxes and jobs are key issues in 2020.
Harvel said in the primary election campaign that he wants “to bring more of a business plan approach to county government...one of sustained growth.”
He would like to bring teams of people together to work on improving the economy while also assisting and advising the county commissioners on important issues.”
Harvel would like to see the former State Pond site near Jonesboro utilized for recreational purposes.
He also would like to take action to give tax relief to motorists when they fill their gas tanks in Illinois. He would like to keep those sales local, instead of having people driving to neighboring Missouri for cheaper fuel.
The race for Union County circuit clerk is between incumbent Democrat Tiffany Busby and Republican challenger Keri Clark.
Like the candidates for county commissioner, Busby and Clark said the pandemic has indeed had an impact on the 2020 campaign.
“The pandemic has created many limitations throughout the campaign process,” Busby said.
She said the cancellations of fairs, festivals and community events, combined with social distancing factors, have created difficulty when it comes to meeting in large group settings.
During the pandemic, Busby said she chose to mail postcards to voters. More than 40 volunteers assisted with that effort.
“Many voters have been very welcoming as they see me in the community, placing signs, going door to door talking with the voters and leaving literature, while still respecting social distancing guidelines,” she said.
Clark, who is making her first foray into politics, also noted the impact of the pandemic on some of the more traditional ways of campaigning, such as fairs and community festivals.
She has turned to such tools as signs and social media to reach out to voters.
The challenge in 2020, she said, has been getting out to knock on doors. “It’s definitely a challenge,” she said.
Clark did note one possible positive note when it comes to the door-to-door campaigning which can be done. Sometimes, she said, senior citizens, especially those who are isolated during the pandemic, have an opportunity to talk about their day.
In looking at the key issues in the election, Busby said “the most important issues within my office is to continue moving forward into the electronic world and implement criminal e-filing for criminal cases.”
“This means rather than filing on paper, attorneys and pro-se litigants would be able to file documents electronically.
“I will be working closely with the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts and my employees to implement this process to make a smooth transition.
“Also, I will continue to work closely with our credit collection agency and the Illinois Comptroller’s Office to assist in generating revenue for the county and municipalities on past due accounts.
“This is very important to me so I may continue to serve all citizens of Union County with my utmost ability as well as maintain the integrity of the office.
Clark said that if she is elected, she will go into the office with an open mind and voiced confidence in her ability to handle challenges she would face.
“I’m good at administration,” she said. “I’m confident in my abilities to manage administratively.”
She currently is director of Union County Juvenile Justice Programs: Redeploy Illinois, First Circuit Juvenile Justice Council, and serves as an adjunct professor at McKendree University in Lebanon.
The candidate has said she is running for circuit clerk “because I believe that the best way to impact your community is to identify your strengths and find the best way to apply those strengths to better the system.”
She said that serving as circuit clerk would bring together a “passion for public service and my business experience.”
The race for Union County state’s attorney features incumbent Democrat Daniel Klingemann and Republican challenger Tyler E. Tripp.
Both candidates are campaigning for public office for the first time – during a pandemic.
And, like the other candidates seeking office in Union County, they are adapting to campaigning during the pandemic.
Tripp, Union County’s full-time public defender, said he had planned a “minimalist...grassroots” campaign which relies on a word-of-mouth network reflecting a wide-ranging, extensive work background.
During the primary, Tripp said he was receiving the support and encouragement of many friends and neighbors.
Tripp said he hopes to be a state’s attorney that the “community feels is connected to their needs and working for the best interests of all.”
The candidate said he would focus on the efficient operation of the office. Tripp said he would pursue the availability of revenue sources which might be missing at this time.
He would address the growing problem of methamphetamines in the community – and the crimes which are connected to the illegal drug.
He also would like to see more utilization of the resources which are available through the Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in Anna.
Ultimately, he said, “the Constitution will be in my back pocket.” Tripp said he wants “to go work for the people of Union County...for the benefit of Union County.”
Klingemann suggested that it has been unusual to not be able to do some of the more traditional campaigning, a situation which has led to a minimal number of public appearances.
“It’s been an adjustment,” he said.
He also has relied on word-of-mouth and social media, along with a postcard mailing effort.
Klingemann started as a law clerk with the Union County state’s attorney’s office in 2013.
“I have grown to love the people and sense of community that Union County has impressed on me and my family,” he said during the primary election campaign.
“I have seen what crime can and has done to the innocent people of Union County. Being able to affect change in the lives of those who have been affected by that crime is a priority for me.”
Klingemann said that key issues he would address include cases involving recurring, repeat drug offenders; and an increasing presence of firearms related to crimes.
(Editor’s note: information about the candidates was gathered during recent telephone interviews and a review of their responses to questionnaires during the March primary election.)